03/02/2012 : NEW PLATFORM COMING FROM ZYNGA
Is the latest move a precursor to involvement in online gambling?
In a week in which his positive views on internet poker at a major conference have been widely reported, Zynga chief Mark Pincus again hit the headlines Thursday with a statement to AllThingsD on a new social gaming platform, later taken up by the LA Times newspaper.
The announcement of the new platform was immediately interpreted as a move closer to offering online gambling, with the LA Times opining that the new venture could give Zynga independence of sorts from Facebook, with which it has long and successfully been associated. It expects the relationship to remain for the foreseeable future, however.
In his announcement, Pincus said: “In 2007 Facebook changed the game with their courageous move to open their platform to us all. We’re proud to be a part of Facebook’s ecosystem and we built Zynga.com to complement their pervasive social graph. Zynga.com will be one of the first sites completely integrated with Facebook which has become the world’s social dial-tone.”
However, the two companies have had their disagreements, particularly over the cut that Facebook takes from Zynga’s sales of digital credits, which gave the Zuckerberg property 12 percent of its $3.4 billion 2011 revenue.
A spokesman for Facebook told AllThingsD that the company has no plans to involve itself in the operation of real money online gambling, a standpoint that would seem at variance with Pincus's frequently expressed interest in the pastime…until the implications of the launch of the new Zynga platform are taken into account.
The LA Times considers options for Zynga in terms of an entry into the online poker market, a primary being licensing in Nevada, which has already made major strides in preparing for legalization. However, that would entail partnering with a licensed casino company, something which Pincus perhaps hinted at in his statement earlier in the week that:
“Zynga Poker is the world’s largest online poker game with more than seven million people playing every day and over 30 million each month. We know from listening to our players that there’s an interest in the real money gambling market. We’re in active conversations with potential partners to better understand and explore this new opportunity.”
Another possibility for Zynga may be shaping up in legalization developments in the company's home state of California, where two legalization bills are currently competing for the favour of lawmakers.
Having stirred the pot vigorously this week with tempting hints at behind-the-scenes activity, Pincus would not elaborate further, although ‘off-the-record' statements by a company spokesman subsequently indicated that the social gaming company is still merely exploring the option of online gambling and that it has no plans in place to dive in just yet.
That said, the company is well positioned to make a move with the success of its poker offering, recently augmented by bingo and soon perhaps casino action.
The LA Times opines that America's confusing laws on internet gambling are possibly holding Zynga back, a point confirmed off the record by spokesmen.
"While some 39 states, including California, allow online betting games with cash prizes, others do not," the newspaper explained. "The U.S. Department of Justice in December issued a legal opinion that stated proposals by states to sell lottery tickets online would not violate the 1961 federal Wire Act banning sports betting.
"Some argued that the opinion paved the way for states to move into online gambling, but others aren't so sure the narrowly crafted opinion would extend beyond state-sponsored lotteries. Until the legal boundaries are clarified, Zynga is unlikely to cash in its virtual chips for the real deal."