Mike Isaac

Recent Posts by Mike Isaac

Betable Could Bring Real-Money Stakes to the Social Game Tables

There is far more money to be made on your virtual crops than just FarmVille cash.

No, not through virtual crop subsidies. I’m talking about money for the other guys, the game companies like Zynga, Nexon and Electronic Arts, all major publishers whose average revenue per user (ARPU) in casual social gaming is far lower than than it could — or should — be. Especially when you stack it up against that of real-money online gambling, with ARPUs ranging from 80 to 160 times that of the Zyngas of the world.

Betable, an online real-money gaming platform, wants to change this, offering itself up as the streamlined way for publishers to add real-money betting to their existing game portfolios.

Online gambling is obviously nothing new. The problem is, it’s an industry dominated by the existing players in the space, companies like 888, Bwin and Betfair. They already have the biggest barrier to entry for any business looking to institute online gambling: Licenses. If you want to participate in the real-money online gambling space, there are hoops to navigate, paperwork to fill out, and lines to wait in. That’s an 18-month minimum wait time, on average, and this is the case no matter what size the company, no matter how vast its resources may be.

In contrast to that, developers sign up for a Betable account, set up their apps and integrate them with Betable’s platform, and can launch their game within the span of a few hours.

Betable’s value proposition: It has already done all that homework. The company is licensed in the United Kingdom, and its license extends to work in any countries that legally allow online gambling. (Sorry, Stateside gamblers — no dice for you until the U.S. government decides to make online gambling legal in America again.)

A risky proposition, considering how many Americans may want to find ways to circumvent the rules? Perhaps, though CEO Chris Griffin says Betable has a number of safeguards to prevent this. Betable takes into account geolocation information from the access terminal, plus data from the initial signup process, and also pulls publicly available data from disparate sources like voting records and credit reports, all to verify you are who you say you are — or more importantly, where you say you are.

Most interesting to me, however, isn’t the possibility of turning Zynga’s play-money slots into real-money ones. It’s the possibility of monetizing existing games. Adding subtle forms of wagering to massively popular games like any of Zynga’s “Ville” games — or perhaps putting real-money stakes on games like Draw Something — could be far more lucrative than trying to attack the tiny 2 percent conversion rate that freemium models average.

The area is ripe for investment — and many have invested. Along with its private beta announcement, Betable’s recently raised seed round includes investment from True Ventures, Greylock Discovery Fund and CrunchFund, as well as from individuals like Howard Lindzon, Joshua Schachter and Dave Morin.

As of Monday, Betable is only opening its doors to some developers in a private beta. The company has already been working with a handful of companies in private alpha, and will choose those best-suited after developers sign up on the company’s site.

Will publishers buy in? Perhaps. Zynga has already expressed interest in the online gambling space, and rumor has it that Facebook has made inquiries as well.

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik