Friday May 18, 2012 :  IS PLAYSTUDIO MGM'S SOCIAL GAMING VEHICLE?
 
Former Wynn Resorts exec now chief executive of an exciting Silicon Valley start-up
 
MGM Resorts International chief Jim Murren has been punting his company's plans to enter the social gambling arena for the past few weeks at various speaking engagements, and this week the Wall Street Journal published an interview that may provide clues to what sort of vehicle MGM may be using.
 
The interview was with former top Wynn Resorts exec Andrew Pascal, who moved on to become the CEO of an MGM-backed Silicon Valley social gaming start-up branded Playstudios, whose objectives include running virtual casinos.
 
"Backed by Wynn rival MGM Resorts International, the start-up, Playstudios, is part of a wave of companies trying to find a sweet spot where gambling and social gaming converge," the Wall Street Journal reports.
 
The article goes on to reveal that Playstudios began testing its first game, branded myVegas, this week in the Philippines and plans to roll out in the U.S. this summer.
 
Apparently the company will introduce a series of games to Facebook that have a gamble-like element but stay within the law by not using real money, although users can boost the usual daily free chip allocation by buying more chips, allowing them longer playing time.
 
That sort of transaction – common in the social gaming environment – can translate to good business on a low value-high volume basis. The WSJ points out that Playtika and Double Down Interactive, owned respectively by land gambling giants IGT and Caesars, both have online casinos on Facebook, with each attracting more than a million users a day to their games, according to tracking firm Appdata.
 
Although no financial details have been disclosed by the companies involved, analysts have opined that each could be generating around $100 million a year.
 
A WSJ source revealed that other investors besides MGM are involved in the $12.5 million Playstudios venture, including major videogame maker Activision Blizzard Inc., although Pascal would not confirm this. MGM will have access to Playstudios' customer-information database.
 
The new venture will offer a range of prizes that include stays at MGM properties and show tickets at casinos, and there will be a loyalty program for users.
 
"Playing the games will also allow the users to build MGM casinos on a virtual Las Vegas Strip that includes only MGM properties including Circus Circus and Bellagio," the Journal reports.