Facebook game maker Zynga could be set to enter the gambling market by switching one of its titles from a play-for-fun currency model, to one that uses real money.
According to the official line, Zynga Poker is the most popular online poker game "with more than 7 million people playing every day and over 30 million each month." This is a giant player base that is happy gambling away their fake money. How they will behave when given the option to stump up some real cash remains to be seen.
However, before Zynga can enter the online casino game for real - despite having a casino facility on Facebook already - it needs to jump through a lot of legal hoops before becoming sanctioned to handle online gambling facilities. On top of getting the correct licenses sorted out, it will need to provide a platform for payments in and out in a secure manner, while maintaining a streamlined interface and familiar gaming experience.
This is why it's being reported that the Facebook game maker is looking for a partner. Buying up a small online gaming company that already has these sorts of things in place would save a lot of time and development money. That said, Zynga has done it alone in the past and has grown to dominance despite plenty of competition on the social network, so it wouldn't be uncharacteristic for it to develop its own opportunities.
Expansion is also on the cards, as while looking for opportunities to monetise Zynga Poker, the company is also developing Zynga Bingo, which is likely to provide an even better chance to generate revenue from Facebook gambling. Also set to be part of Zynga Casino, the simpler, easy to pick up game doesn't require much user interaction and should provide a quick fix of gambling action for those that want it.
However, Zynga won't have the marketplace to itself. Double-Down Interactive was recently bought out by International Game Technology, a video poker powerhouse and could be set to monetise its own Facebook gambing titles. These include: Blackjack, slots, roulette and of course, video poker. While this collection of games 'only' has 4.7 million monthly active users - a little less than Zynga Poker's 30 million - it still represents a large enough user base that it could generate some impressive revenue with a real-money gambling option.
It seems likely that with plenty of casino games that aren't being represented by Zynga, that it will continue its expansion with other titles over the coming year. Whether it will buy up a firm that has its own games - that can be ported over to the social network - as well as its own payment options remains to be seen, but for now it is actively searching.