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UK regulators dampen social gaming crackdown talk; developers flee Google+

TAGs: gambling commission, google plus, social gaming, UK Gambling Commission

gambling-commission-social-games-google+The UK Gambling Commission has sought to dampen concerns that it is about to impose strict regulations on the social gaming sector. Reports in the UK media over the weekend suggested the commish was considering bringing social games under its wing, but corporate affairs officer James Cook told eGamingReview that regulators were only keeping an eye out to judge if this or that social game meets the criteria for gambling as defined by the Gambling Act 2005, which Cook said “more often than not it isn’t.” So long as social gamers cannot convert their virtual winnings into cold hard cash, “the activity would not be considered gambling.”

However, how would the Gambling Act’s definition of gambling – playing for a “prize” that is defined as winning “money or money’s worth” – treat social gaming outfit RocketFrog’s awarding of items like gift cards, compact disks and movie tickets to winners of its poker, blackjack or slots tournaments? Then there’s Ryzing, developers of the game Bingo by Ryzing, which was acquired this week by social gaming outfit RockYou. Ryzing’s game allows its 75k daily active users to win real-world prizes – including luxury vacations and $1k cash jackpots – via a sweepstakes format that neatly avoids falling afoul of US gambling laws…for now.

Given the growth in popularity of social games, it isn’t surprising regulators would eventually take notice. Analytics firm Kontagent put social casino games’ share of all Facebook gamers at 6% in 2010, 8% in 2011, and 13% in 2012, culminating in news this week that Zynga Poker had assumed the #1 spot on the FB game charts. The hubbub has prompted tech blog VentureBeat to add a social casino panel to its GamesBeat 2012 conference (July 10-11 in San Francisco). Panelists will include Zynga’s GM of casino games Jesse Jasonov; Betable CEO/founder Christopher Griffin; Blitzoo Games CEO David Bezahler and 12 Gigs CEO Nicholas Talarico. The theme of the conference is ‘the crossover era,’ in part a reflection of the convergence of formerly separate gaming/gambling companies.

On the mobile side, this week’s top-grossing app charts from Gamasutra reinforce the popularity of casino-style games. On the iPhone top-10, Zynga Poker is #4, with Playtika’s Slotomania at #6. On the iPad, Zynga Poker is #3, with Slotomania HD close behind at #4, regular Slotomania at #8 and BitRhymes Inc’s Bingo Bash HD making its chart debut at #10. On the Android chart, Slotomania is at #2, followed by Dragonplay’s Slot City: Slot Machines at #3, Zynga Poker at #4 and Dragonplay’s Live Holdem Poker Pro at #5.

Speaking of Android, Google’s Facebook competitor Google+ was dealt a blow this week when two of its biggest social game developers, PopCap and Wooga, announced they were pulling their respective titles from the social network. PopCap, maker of Lucky Gem Casino, maintains that it will “continue to develop for Google platforms” like Android, but has apparently decided its developers have higher priorities than catering to Google+’s dwindling user base. German-based Wooga isn’t commenting on its decision to cut and run, besides fixing a July 1 exit date.

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