Real Money Bingo on Facebook
The announcement by Facebook late last year that the social networking giant is considering real money gaming excited the whole gaming industry. Facebook has 900 million regular users and the prospect of reaching such a large audience has gaming operators salivating. The move could change the face of online gaming permanently. Several gaming companies have already invested big bucks to prepare for real money bingo on Facebook. Caesar's Entertainment and International Gaming Technologies have spent $700 million to acquire social gaming companies. IGT purchased Double Down for $500 and Caesar's has purchased Playtika the company behind Slotomania for $170 million.
There are legal hurdles for Facebook to overcome, and every country has its own set of online gaming laws that could affect real money gaming on Facebook.
Gaming experts say the UK and Europe are likely starting points for Facebook's real money gambling. The UK has one of the best regulatory environments for gaming companies, and has a thriving online gaming market. The UK may be the first country to see real money gaming on Facebook. Industry rumors say that UK gaming giant 888 Holdings is already negotiating with Facebook to make social gaming a reality in the UK. The UK has one of the largest and most active online bingo markets in the world, and most experts believe that UK residents will embrace social gaming with a passion. In other European nations, the regulatory issues could hinder the growth of real money social gaming. Although countries like France and Denmark have liberalized their laws Germany and Spain are fighting online gaming.
The Asian-Pacific gaming market remains relatively untapped. While Facebook is extremely popular in countries such as Indonesia, it is struggling in in large markets, including Japan and South Korea. In China, Facebook is blocked by the government.
In the United States, experts are debating whether it is better to have state by state legalization of online gaming or whether federal regulation is more desirable. If individual states legalize online gaming and poker, limiting the games to residents could be problematic for Facebook. The most popular game on Facebook is Zynga's Texas Hold Em poker game, which has millions of regular players. Zynga has expressed an interest in acquiring a land based casino. They joined many high-profile internet companies to successfully lobby against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The unpopular measure would have required internet companies to cut off access to websites using materials considered copyright infringement. The bill was backed by the entertainment and music industries, among other industries that fear digital piracy.
Popular opposition to the bill was fierce, and members of congress were inundated with emails from angry constituents. Alix Burns, president and founder of Bay Bridge Strategies, is the lobbyist for Zynga's account. Previously, Burns worked on Al Gore's unsuccessful presidential bid. Burns has also worked for a tech firm and for the Democratic National Committee.
Zynga and other social gaming companies are well aware of the potential to convert players that currently play for free to real money players once online gambling is legalized. In March, Zynga released an online bingo game on Facebook, much to the chagrin of Buffalo Studios, the developers of Bingo Blitz. Zynga CEO Mark Pincus sees online gaming as a perfect fit for Zynga. Speaking about Zynga and online gambling at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in San Francisco, Pincus stated: "I think it's a good, natural fit." Pincus also said that industry observers "should expect to see us do a lot more than what you've seen in offshore casinos."
Right now, real money gambling on Facebook is limited. Most major gaming companies have seen the potential of Facebook and are making moves to take advantage of social (and mobile) gaming once all of the legal and technical issues have been ironed out. Here are a few of the top games on Facebook, whose operators are posied for of the upcoming gambling wave:
- Zynga's Texas Hold Em poker is easily the most popular casino style game on Facebook. The game has 6.6 million daily users and 31.3 million monthly users. Zynga's version of Texas Hold Em is one of the longest running games on Facebook, and was launched in 2008. Zynga has monetized the game by selling casino gold and chips for Facebook credits, and offers an option to purchase these via mobile phones. Players can earn more playing chips by inviting their friends to play.
- Israeli game developer Playtika's Slotomania holds the second top spot on Facebook. Slotomania was launched in 2010, and since then has enjoyed steady growth. Slotomania has 1,700,000 daily users and 5.6 million monthly users. Last year, the game spiked after Playtika was acquired by Harrah's, which is a part of Caesar's Entertainment. To keep the games going, players are offered a special bonus every four hours. Virtual currency is the chief source of revenue for Slotomania. The currency is purchased in batches using Facebook credits.
- Buffalo Studios' Bingo Blitz is in third place on Facebook. This highly original online bingo game was launched in 2010, and had slow but steady growth through 2011. Currently, Bingo Blitz has about 900,000 daily users and has a stable player base between 2.5 and 3 million players. When Zynga launched their version of bingo, there were accusations that they copied Bingo Blitz. Bingo Blitz uses two currencies: coins and credits, which are interchangeable. Extra game credits may be purchased with Facebook credits.
- Double Down casino was launched in 2010, and features several casino style games. Double Down offers video poker, blackjack, slots, tournaments and roulette. Double Down has 1.3 million daily users and 4.7 monthly users. New players are given a number of free chips and may purchase more using Facebook credits.
As you can see from the numbers, social network gambling has a lot of potential for gaming operators. Facebook has 900 million active users around the world. Some gaming companies are already using Facebook as a vehicle for player acquisition.
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