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Casinos Add Facebook Games to Their Friends List

October 1, 2012

“Brick and mortar” casinos are through cowering in fear from the prospect of online gambling — now some are jumping on the bandwagon and trying to profit from them. The search for the elusive gambling dollar has driven some Vegas Strip casinos to partner up with Facebook and other companies well-versed in digital gaming to try to create the next generation of casino games to lure in the next generation of casino patrons.

The idea is simple — people are already playing certain games online, and if the casinos offer the same or similar games, people will appreciate the familiarity and will likely visit and play. To this end, Caesars Entertainment bought a slot machine game from Facebook called Solotmania, Riviera has partnered with Bingo Blitz, a huge online-bingo company, and Flamingo has developed a game very similar to the popular Zynga game, “Farmville”, as reported in an article on Mobiledia.

There has been a strong interest in monetized social gaming lately, with companies such as Zynga games hoping to convince people to start dumping real money into games they are currently playing for fun. The current model of selling ad space and encouraging players to pay for bonuses or other helpful game additions isn’t really working, and it’s learned that making online social gaming more like online gambling could result in hundreds of times the current collected profit.

Facebook is already diving into this arena in the United Kingdom, where they’ve released “Bingo Friendzy”, a typical Facebook game where real money is used instead of the variety of imaginary money Facebook usually offers as currency in its gaming platform. The release took place in the U.K. because there is a strong interest in Internet gambling and solid and safe regulations in place. European countries are great to test new online-gambling offerings because there are severe restrictions on Internet gambling in many other countries, including the United States.

Digital Gambling & The U.S. Nation Interdiction

The legal stumbling block in the U.S. was put in place in 2006. Ironically, many people believe that traditional casinos, fearful of losing a share of gambling dollars, were the driving force behind the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). The law essentially made it illegal to gamble online anywhere in the U.S. Since then, some states, including Nevada and New Jersey, have created state laws that would allow some type of online gambling.

The reason for the change in thought is pretty simple — THE LAW DIDN’T WORK. As an article in Forbes points out, millions of Americans gamble online anyway, and by having such a law in place, the government is simply forfeiting the right to collect tax money from these gaming transactions. The entire situation is reminiscent of the days of alcohol prohibition — people find a way to do what they want to do, and with no legal and reputable place to do it, they turn to criminals, or in this case, unregulated off-shore casinos.

Now a strange predicament exists in the U.S. with a federal law against online gambling but several individual state laws contradicting it. This may lead to legal battles down the road if the federal law isn’t changed (there is an effort underway now to get it repealed), but for the time being, casinos in states like Nevada and New Jersey are pushing ahead with their social-gaming experiment. Existing brick and mortar casinos are in a unique position to take advantage of the legal situation, since they are well-versed in the challenges of their state’s digital gaming regulations and are already licensed by the state’s gaming commission.

If the experiment works the way traditional casinos hope it will, it should create a brand new “life cycle” of a gambler. Players can start gaming online, play the same game online for real money and eventually come to the actual casino to play the same game in a regular casino setting. Casinos will, of course, be doing what they can to make sure the model works, particularly encouraging gamblers to take the last step and come to the casino. This would most likely be accomplished through special promotions or offers given online that have to be redeemed at the casino.

The risk is that the convenience of online gaming could drive people away from physical casinos altogether and leave them at home playing online. By partnering with online-gaming entities, at least traditional casinos would get a share of the revenue from this kind of gaming, but it would still be disastrous for their physical properties. Beyond that, online gambling could spark an addicts temptation to get themselves into trouble.

The digital age has forced many brick and mortar entities to adjust or become extinct. Perhaps casinos have viewed the collapse of many big-box retail stores in the face of online competition as a cautionary tale, inspiring them to forge a partnership with potential online competitors. Whether this blend of physical casinos and digital gaming will be successful remains to be seen, but clearly in our rapidly changing world, the most dangerous thing is often to do nothing.


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