In reports that were released earlier in the month from various sources such as ZDNet.com and eGaming Review, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and various other employees were rumored to be in discussion with several different online poker organizations in regards to the right to sponsor real-money gambling.
Facebook, which currently sponsors hundreds of free games that only require the use of credits, would be greatly expanding its horizons by offering players the opportunity to make money. While Facebook has entertained the idea in the past, conversations about the possibility of this picked up considerably over the summer.
With as many as “twenty” interested parties according to a recent blog post by Emil Protalinski of ZDNet.com, the social networking company has been believed to be offering as many as eight exclusive online poker licenses to the potential business partners. eGaming Review, has already named two big name players in the Facebook sweepstakes: Gamesys and 888 Holdings PLC.
Gamesys, a gaming developer stationed in the United Kingdom, is a rapidly growing company capable of taking a few of the casino-related operations that Facebook currently runs to new heights. Primarily focused on “instant-win” and Bingo related areas, Gamesys also has valuable relationships with popular UK newspapers such as “The Sun”, and partnerships with various radio airwaves such as HeartFM and Global Radio.
In 2009 the launch of iwi; a unit of Gamesys dedicated to producing social networking games; acquired over 1,700,000 visitors to its games each month. Throughout the next 6 months, Gamesys also went on to establish a valuable partnership with Harrah’s Entertainment, the biggest operator in the world of casino-related entertainment.
888 Holdings PLC is well known for their operation of the fourth-largest online poker platform available, 888 Poker. The company is also the face behind the WSOP.com poker site, backed by Caesar’s Entertainment, and they’re looking to sneak their way towards the front of the line in the Facebook bidding war.
The 888 Poker network consistently brings in amazing traffic, something they would be looking to improve on by linking with the social networking giant.
Nonetheless, while the intermingling of both Facebook and real-money gaming seems inevitable, there are several key issues that need to be addressed before this occurs.
One of the most evident being the allowance of users from the United States to participate within the online games, this could be a deal breaker to many of the organizations hoping to be involved. With the legality of online poker in the U.S. remaining uncertain, a large portion of Facebook’s users would be excluded from such a promising alliance.
If a plan was eventually orchestrated, Facebook would first use the markets with the U.K. for its test runs, and then later branch out amongst other locales.
Another potential problem arises with how revenues would be divided, and also with how Facebook would gather the extensive third-party payment processors necessary to efficiently run such an operation. Combine these concerns with the glaring truth that most of Facebook’s populace is severely underage, or refuses to provide birth information within their profiles in the first place, and the line of feasibility begins to look distant.
Officials of the public relations department of Facebook were even quoted as saying “we’re always in discussions with companies about lots of different ideas, but we don’t comment on future plans or speculation.” So despite the promising news, Facebook could be far away from establishing a true poker client for its visitors.
If we are to see a real-money poker platform on Facebook, however, it should be some time during the early stages of 2012.