With Euro 2012 officially underway and Ireland playing its first game on Sunday v. Croatia, what better opportunity to spotlight Bragbet, an Irish social games startup that (unlike those other social sports betting apps) brings a team concept to sports betting. Teams are comprised of up to six friends, who take turns acting as captain/decision-maker. The social aspect comes via your friends publicly critiquing your decision-making abilities as your team battles other teams tournament-style. The stakes are virtual but there’s a prize pool of €2,012 up for grabs during the software’s public trial throughout Euro 2012. Bragbet CEO Phil Riordan is of the opinion that sports betting has never been a very social activity, but there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’ nor in ‘Bragbet’. Riordan says Bragbet will segue from virtual credits to cold hard cash sometime later this year.
Making such a transition is far from guaranteed. On Saturday, This Is Money reported that the UK Gambling Commission is taking a closer look at social gaming’s ever-hazier delineation between virtual and real-money play. Commission corporate affairs manager John Travers described social gaming as existing “at the perimeter” of the Gambling Act. “The key question is, is it gambling or not? We are monitoring developments and assessing any wider implications for licensing objectives.” Travers’ concerns echo those expressed by regulators in China, where social game companies are under investigation, and in Japan, which recently saw fit to ban some social games outright.
Numis Securities analyst Ivor Jones said Travers’ comments could spell problems for companies reliant on social gaming revenues, such as Facebook and Zynga. Online gambling companies acquiring or deploying social game subsidiaries might also be vulnerable to the reaction of investors already jittery from Friday’s announcement that Spain’s banks need a €100b bailout. Should make for an interesting Monday for Bwin.party, which announced its own €40m social games strategy in late May, a month in which the company’s stock lost a quarter of its value. Unlike some other firms, Bwin’s social gaming offshoot isn’t intended to convert virtual gamblers to the real-money kind. Will investors take that into consideration? Tune in Monday.