Zynga Makes Its First Move Into ‘Real Money’ Games, Partners With Casino Gaming Giant Bwin.Party

I’ve a feeling we’re not in Farmville anymore. Zynga announced today its first concrete move into “real money” gaming, in other words, gambling-oriented games that let people both win and lose actual cash with each other.

Zynga announced this afternoon it has inked an exclusive partnership with bwin.party, the Gibraltar-based online gambling company, to offer real money online poker and casino games in the United Kingdom, where such things are currently legal (they are not permitted in the United States.) Through the new partnership, Zynga’s UK arm and bwin.party will launch products including poker and 180 other casino games such as slots, roulette, and blackjack “in the first half of 2013.” Financial terms of the partnership have not been disclosed.

A Zynga spokesperson told TechCrunch, “Bwin is reputable. They have a proven track record. They’re the leading international real money gaming operator.”

It’s not news that Zynga has been building a strategy to expand into real money games. Earlier this year in Zynga’s second quarter earnings call, CEO Mark Pincus told analysts and investors that the company was on track to launch real-money games in the first half of 2013, so this squares up with that timing. And in August, the company hired former online gambling exec Maytal Olsha to serve as its “chief operating officer of new markets,” in effect tasked to lead its push into games that deal in real money.

This is big news, and it will be very interesting to see how it impacts the investor reception of its third quarter results announced this afternoon. Zynga’s stock price has been lagging around record lows for weeks, and yesterday the company cut five percent of its workforce as part of a move to cut a number of social gaming titles that have not gotten strong user traction. Making its long-anticipated launch into real money games could give Zynga a much-needed shot in the arm — although, to be sure, real gambling is certainly a more controversial industry than making social games with cute animals.

Here is the press release:

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 24, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Zynga (Nasdaq:ZNGA), the world’s leading provider of social game services, and bwin.party, the leading international real money gaming operator, today announced an exclusive partnership to offer real money online Poker and Casino games in the UK market. Zynga’s UK-based RMG service and bwin.party will launch RMG products including Poker and a full suite of 180 Casino games in the first half of 2013, which include table games such as slots, roulette and blackjack.

“Bringing together Zynga’s expertise in social gaming with the top international real money gaming operator is the best way to create the highest quality gaming experiences for our players in the UK,” said Barry Cottle, Executive Vice President, Corporate and Business Development, Zynga. “Partnering with an established leader like bwin.party is a strategic and prudent way for us to enter a key RMG market while giving local players the real money games they’ve been asking us for.”

“Today’s announcement is another example of our success in leveraging our assets through strategic blue-chip partners,” said Jim Ryan and Norbert Teufelberger, Co-CEOs of bwin.party. “Zynga is the world’s leader in social games with hundreds of millions of active players worldwide and a significant player base in the UK. We are delighted to have been selected as their chosen partner for this important step in their evolution, and hope to expand our relationship into other products and markets.”

Zynga’s real money UK poker customers will join the bwin.party dotcom player liquidity pool — getting the benefits of playing on the largest regulated poker network. Zynga’s UK-based RMG service will be powered by the established operating platform, software, and related support of bwin.party.

In addition to the full suite of Casino and Poker games, Zynga’s UK-based RMG service will also leverage the company’s world renowned entertainment brand, FarmVille, to offer local players the first-ever, online FarmVille-branded real money slots game.

Zynga’s UK-based RMG service will operate under bwin.party’s Gibraltar gaming license.