With the anticipation of legalized and regulated US online poker intensifying, plenty of companies have begun investing resources into their own poker operations. This is especially the case among major land-based casino corporations, which have been aligning with established online poker sites. The Caesars/888 Holdings partnership is one example that comes to mind, while there are several other prospective poker site/land-based casino conglomerations in the works.
Interestingly enough, established poker rooms are not the only prospects that casinos are eying these days since a number of social media giants are working their way into the fold as well. Additionally, several notable sports betting brands outside the US are also interested in taking on social media partners for their poker operations. This being said, let’s look at some of these interesting partnerships and define what each deal could mean for the future of online poker.
Zynga and Wynn Resorts Ltd. looking to move to Online Poker
The most-publicized alliance right now is between social gaming kingpin Zynga and Wynn Resorts Ltd. This is a very interesting pairing for several reasons, with the first being that Wynn was previously teamed up with PokerStars. However, the US Department of Justice’s actions against Stars on Black Friday ended any potential deal with the Wynn. Now the casino corporation is working out an agreement with Zynga, which, depending on who you’re listening to, could be even more lucrative than the Stars deal.
The pros for Wynn Resorts in this union is that they’d have access to a massive base of social media gamers. Zynga currently runs a number of free games for Facebook – the largest social networking site in the world – and their estimated amount of monthly users sits at over 240 million. The most notable game for our purposes is Zynga Poker, which has an estimated 35 million users. And while all of these people are merely playing free poker games, this base contains lots of potential real money players.
Moving to the benefits for Zynga, it’s almost a given that they’ll need to partner with a major casino company in their quest to offer real money poker to Americans. Joining Wynn Resorts offers a way for them to do this – even if it’s only for the state of the Nevada in the beginning. Assuming either individual states or the US federal government decide to offer real money online poker, the Zynga/Wynn operation could be the first licensed site running real money poker games in the US. And this would help them gain a big share of the American market!
Facebook and William Hill/Ladbrokes – Online Poker
It is hard finding a corner of the world where people don’t know of Facebook since the social networking goliath has over 900 million users worldwide and counting. This alone makes Facebook a potential goldmine for any future online poker partners. The only problem with this thought is that Facebook doesn’t seem overly-interested in the US poker market, which is why they’re not working with Zynga on this.
However, they have expressed plenty of interest in offering real money poker and casino games to UK residents – as long as it’s not on their own site. This is where noted UK bookmakers William Hill and Ladbrokes come into the picture; Facebook has held several meetings about allowing users to access these companies’ poker sites. There’s no confirmation on how these talks with William Hill and Ladbrokes are currently going or if anything will come to fruition. But if Facebook were to allow users to play at William Hill and/or Ladbrokes, this would potentially funnel tens of millions of people to these sites.
Station Casinos and CyberArts – Online Poker
This one really isn’t a partnership, but rather a buyout since Fertitta Interactive (owns 45% of Station) purchased CyberArts towards the end of 2011. Now some people may not be as familiar with this deal since it’s lower key than what’s going on with Facebook and Zynga. Nevertheless, Station Casinos appears to be one of the most-ready entities to enter a regulated US online poker market with the addition of CyberArts.
If you’ve never heard of CyberArts, they’re another social media games provider – with an emphasis on free bingo, casino and poker games. Fertitta seems to be especially interested in the online poker aspect since they worked out a previous relationship with Full Tilt Poker that fell through after Black Friday. But with CyberArts now listed as one of their assets, it doesn’t look like Fertitta will be missing Full Tilt as much.
Looking at things from an overall perspective, it will be extremely interesting to see how all of the previously discussed deals pan out. Major social media players have realized the massive potential behind getting into real money gaming, while casino companies know that they could benefit greatly from aligning with these sites. Now the only remaining question is if both sides will see their partnerships prosper as planned.