Social gaming – the billion dollar opportunity

social gaming gambling summit 2012One of the final sessions at this year’s Social Gaming and Gambling Summit saw a panel discuss the online gambling industry under the title: “One Bet to Rule Them All: Wagering the Emergence of Online Gambling”. It saw various personalities from a number of gambling-related backgrounds discussing where we currently stand in the social casino space and the future impact it could have.

The six panelists were grilled by moderator Arseny Lebedev, managing director of Signus Labs, on a number of aspects of where the social casino industry and what it will become. He asked what the success indicators in the social casino space are with most of those agreeing on one thing – high quality is a key aspect. Daniel Fiske, founder of Clickfun Casino, told the room that “visuals are important” but spoke of there being much more than that.

Raf Keustermans, co-founder and CEO of slots developer Plumbee, told the floor it was imperative companies found “their own way of doing things” like Plumbee with, what he called, “slots games for slots connoisseurs”. (Yes, before you ask, slots connoisseurs do exist). As for how to create a good slot, Keustermans was insistent that hiring a “good slots mathematician” was the key.

Gerald Cunningham, founder and CEO of Koolbit and former president of Betfair USA, agreed with the quality angle and added: “High quality is critical. Anyone that takes short cuts will find it hard.”

Cunningham did stress there’s a difference between the quality required for certain platforms with Facebook requiring a “much larger” level than Android as the latter simply isn’t that “mature”.

Facebook is obviously huge when it comes to discussions on social gaming and right now the rules regarding gambling don’t implicitly allow it. It’s something that might not change for some time and Keustermans mentioned the difficulties it could create as being a factor counting against it for the moment.

“It’s a controversial move for them and a dangerous place to go to. Gambling is very tricky,” he said.

The lawyer in attendance, Jas Purewal from Osborne Clarke, asked the question as to whether demand is going to be high enough for social games. It’s been a question floated by various gambling industry personalities over the past 18 months as most question whether play money can turn into real money. Keustermans called parts of the social gaming industry a “$1billion opportunity” and the real money into play money quandary is certainly something that fits into this category.

As for the future, Fiske is intrigued by the prospect of social betting on sports and would be “very impressed “ if anyone made it work and believes the “frequency” of sports being far less than casino gaming as a big problem. Cunningham thinks that “somebody will crack it” with the “real challenge” being to persuade people to actually bet against their friends.

It doesn’t take Einstein to work out that Facebook will have a huge role to play in the future of the social gaming space and anyone getting involved will have to be careful to make sure their product is the very best possible. That and get a slots mathematician!