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Double Down CEO Greg Enell

Gambling technology company IGT’s acquisition of Double Down Interactive for as much as $500 million is big news for the Seattle startup scene, but it could also have far-reaching implications for the types of games people play on Facebook — helping to clear the way for actual gambling on the popular social network.

That’s the word from Greg Enell, the Double Down Interactive CEO and co-founder, who spoke with GeekWire via phone this afternoon, shortly after the acquisition was announced. Double Down right now offers “casino-style” social games, with no real gambling. But Enell says the situation could start to change as early as later this year.

Continue reading for excerpts from our interview.

How did you weigh the offer from IGT vs. the benefits of staying independent?

Enell: The acquisition makes sense for us because IGT has such an enormous studio capacity for developing slot content, primarily. Slots is core to our business. IGT owns more than half of the LAN-based slot operations worldwide. They’ve got an incredible digital capacity, as well. Their studios are huge in Reno and Las Vegas. We’re really excited about the idea of them being able to build slots for our platform, and incorporate big brands like Wheel of Fortune, Sex & The City, DaVinci Diamonds. I think it will be enormously beneficial. Bringing them into our virtual social platform give us a significant competitive advantage. Double Down will be the only one offering these brand-oriented slots.

How do you view social casino gaming vs. actual gambling at this point, and does this mean that at some point people will be able to win actual money in DoubleDown Casino?

In partnership with IGT, we get access to a really robust and proven real-money wagering platform online. If you were to marry the DoubleDown Casino brand, our large audience, and have the ability to cross-sell them into a real money wagering environment, that’s powered by IGT using our brand on Facebook, in particular, I think it creates an enormous opportunity. We are the dominant casino product on Facebook, and Facebook has talked about allowing real-money wagering in authorized jurisdictions, and that could result in a DoubleDown Casino in the UK that offers real money with IGT’s gaming systems powering the back-end. It creates an enormous economic opportunity for IGT and ourselves.

Could that happen in the U.S., based on the things that the U.S. Justice Department has recently talked about?

Yes. I think it could. On a state-by-state basis, we could do the exact same thing in the U.S., and that again creates an opportunity that is really beyond what I thought about six months ago. Six months ago, we didn’t consider real money an option at all, but with IGT that becomes an option, because they’re licensed and regulated in all the states in the U.S. And because we have the strength of the relationship on Facebook, we can marry all of that together and, for example, offer real-money online slots in California on Facebook. Obviously there’s a tremendous economic upside to that.

Is there any real-money gambling anywhere on Facebook today? 

No. Facebook has been saying that it’s something that could come to fruition in late 2012 or or early 2013.

Previously on GeekWire: Gambling giant IGT buying Double Down for $500M, moving into Facebook games

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