Zynga’s January launch of real-money online poker operations on Facebook in the UK prompted an analyst to write a blurb on TheStreet.com saying Zynga’s real-money debut in New Jersey – in tandem with Bwin.party digital entertainment, with whom Zynga’s UK real-money efforts are linked – couldn’t be far behind. (For the record, he also suggested Zynga’s 12-month price should be above $10, a number the struggling company hasn’t seen since its IPO two years ago, and more than double its Friday closing price.)
The analyst somehow arrived at this conclusion despite Zynga CEO Don Mattrick’s insistence last July that real-money gambling wasn’t in the cards. While Zynga’s play-money casino products were the bright spot in the social gamers’ otherwise dismal Q4 earnings report, COO Clive Downie felt compelled to tell PocketGamer.biz this week that “as we announced months ago, real money gaming is not a priority for us.”
Sticking with what it knows best, Zynga has added a new slot title into its virtual casino offering. Riches of Olympus launched this week on iOS devices, in keeping with Zynga’s efforts to bolster its once-lagging mobile product range. Zynga executive VP of games Barry Cottle told VentureBeat that slots was the fastest-growing segment of the social casino category and the new Greek gods-themed offering delivered “a uniquely social, high quality Las Vegas-style experience for slots lovers.” Cottle said he expects this year to be “transformational” for the Zynga Casino franchise.
Not to be outdone, online entertainment outfit Yahoo Games has just released iOS versions of three of its social gaming titles. Yahoo’s Poker, Bingo and Pool titles are compatible with iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches.
All this social casino hoopla has prompted charities to get in on the action. SpinForGood.com is a platform that allows users to play their slots for free, but they can also choose to make a tax-deductible donation of $5 or $20, for which they receive a stack of virtual chips and entry into a slots tournament. Players select from one of the charities with which Spin For Good has partnered, then compete with other players to see who can build the tallest stack of chips. The pool of money is then divided up according to who placed highest and funneled to the charities of those players’ choosing. The site was co-founded by Steven Levitt, co-author of the New York Times best-seller Freakonomics, who released a research paper in 2011 backing up the contention that poker is a skill game.