by Joss Wood, Rakeback.com Poker News Staff Writer
Currently, Facebook has a strict policy of banning real-money gaming applications on its website- but that may soon change. Now that Facebook is likely to become a public company (by issuing shares which anyone can buy), it is exploring real-money gaming as a viable source of income.
The initial plan will limit the pilot experiment to the UK. Eight licences will be issued, each of which allows a gaming operator to link their application to the Facebook social network. Zynga Poker is currently the largest play-money gaming application on Facebook, with over 30 million monthly users. If the plan to expand to real-money is successful, there is an enormous potential to expand the number of real-money poker players around the world.
Some of the big Las Vegas casino operators also have an interest in Facebook gaming. Caesars owns 51% of Double Down Casino, Bingo Blitz, and Slotomania, all of which generate billions of dollars in virtual money every year. Gamesys, which operates JackpotJoy and the recent Red or Black slot game has 1.7 million monthly users.
PokerStars and 888 are two of the companies that have been attending meetings with Facebook executives. They may be among the first to apply for the limited number of licences available. At the moment, Facebook takes a 30% cut of all the virtual credits on its social gaming sites, and players cannot cash out their winnings. It will surely take some time for similar negotiations to take place on how to make real-money gambling successful.
Real-money gambling on Facebook will probably not be launched before April 2012. The first operators will likely be those who are currently running successful virtual money applications. If it quickly becomes a big money earner for Facebook, we can expect many more major gambling businesses to pile on in.
Facebook will be very sensitive to the regulatory environment, and for some virtual money operators the best strategy will be to sell their applications to gaming operators with more experience in navigating the treacherous international waters of gaming regulations. Similarly, it will make sense for Facebook to ensure that it teams up with only the best online gaming operators to ensure that it takes no risks with its reputation.
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