RocketPlay Betting on Zynga to Bring Its Virtual Sports Casino to Facebook
RocketPlay has partnered with Zynga to bring its virtual sports betting game to Facebook.
The concept is similar to a sportsbook in Las Vegas, where fans drink beer, place bets and watch their favorite teams play on giant screens.
Now, instead of traveling all the way to Sin City, players can tune in to Facebook to check out the odds and place bets while watching the game from their living rooms. And, because sports betting is illegal in the U.S., the free-to-play game doesn’t require players to spend a dime, making it a much more innocent form of entertainment.
The game, called Sports Casino, goes live today, just in time for the NFL’s season opener tonight between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants.
In the game, players place their bets based on RocketPlay’s odds for a chance to beat the house. Initially, it will cover professional and college football, baseball and soccer games, with other sports, such as basketball, cricket and rugby, coming later.
RocketPlay, which has offices in both San Francisco and Tel Aviv, will be one of the first third-party developers to partner with Zynga. As part of that partnership, Zynga will publish the game on both the Facebook and Zynga.com platforms, and, in theory, direct thousands of players to use it. In return, RocketPlay will share the revenues with Zynga.
Matthew Cullen, president of RocketPlay, said the partnership with Zynga was attractive because of the 40 million users who play Zynga Poker every month, which makes it the second-most-popular game on the social network.
“Zynga Poker is an awesome game and it has a huge following — it hasn’t lost speed for them at all,” Cullen said. “We think sports betting is exactly the same thing, and that it’s going to complement them really well. We had a number of options for distribution, and partnering with Zynga made too much sense not to do.”
Third-party publishing is just one area where Zynga hopes to boost the company’s growth. The second is in real-money gaming, making Sports Casino a good match on two fronts. Last week, AllThingsD reported that Zynga hired Maytal Ginzburg as the company’s chief operating officer in charge of new markets, which includes gambling. Ginzburg was a high-level executive at 888 Holdings, which offers real-money games such as poker, bingo and sports betting online, where it is legal.
Cullen said RocketPlay was founded in 2008 as the developer behind Footbl.com, a social network for soccer fans, which managed real-money games based on fantasy teams. That is legal in the U.S. A little more than a year ago, it got serious about the opportunity on Facebook, given the popularity of virtual casino games, like slots, bingo and poker.
“We sat back and asked ‘why the hell hasn’t someone done sports betting?'” Cullen said, adding that sports betting is bigger than all the other kinds of gambling combined.
Cullen said that in addition to sports bets, Sports Casino will also incorporate other games you would normally find in a casino, like poker and slots, to keep people playing. Additionally, the Sports Casino offers “in-play betting,” which means that people will be able to place bets after a game begins on all kinds of propositions, such as which team will be the next to score, or what are the odds of a turnover.
Next, he said, the company will be bringing the game to mobile, and down the road, it will investigate the opportunity for real-money gaming, especially in Europe, where Facebook is already conducting experiments.
The company, which has 21 employees, is backed by $10 million in funding from Pitango, an Israeli-backed venture capital firm.
Here’s the press release:
RocketPlay Partners with Zynga to Bring Social Sports-Betting to Facebook and Zynga.com
Sports Casino Delivers Engaging Second-Screen Sports Experience with Live In-Game Betting
SAN FRANCISCO — Sept. 5, 2012 — RocketPlay, creators of groundbreaking social sports-betting games, today announced that it has launched Sports Casino, a social sports-betting title on Facebook and Zynga.com. Along with the game’s release, RocketPlay also announced its partnership with Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA), the world’s leading provider of social game services, to bring Sports Casino to the 306 million monthly active players on Zynga’s network of games across Facebook and other platforms. Sports Casino is available to play at www.zynga.com and on Facebook at http://apps.facebook.com/sportscasino/.
“Sports Casino delivers an authentic virtual sports-betting experience to social gaming and sports fans,” said Mani Honigstein, CEO, RocketPlay. “We’re thrilled to launch with Zynga’s support, a company that has set the social gaming benchmark and will help us bring a great game to a wide range of players.”
Sports Casino players enjoy an authentic Las Vegas-style sportsbook experience, placing virtual bets on global sports with real-time odds, while enjoying integrated casino games such as video poker, slots, and blackjack. Players can enjoy in-game, real-time betting while competing with their friends – a perfect second-screen complement to watching live sports on television. Sports Casino arrives just in time for action-packed betting on professional and college football, baseball, and international soccer.
The game appeals to the highly sought-after male gamer demographic on Facebook, particularly as social betting games continue to grow in popularity. Though the game currently uses only virtual currency, RocketPlay has developed Sports Casino to take advantage of the rising importance of real-money gambling in the social space as opportunity arises and legal restrictions are eased.
The Zynga Platform is a social gaming platform designed to give players the most social and fun gaming experience wherever they play, while helping third-party developers of all sizes launch, promote, scale and grow their games and business.
Following the Sports Casino’s release, RocketPlay will continue to update the game with new features and sports, including hockey, basketball, and more.
RocketPlay, formerly known as Gamingo, is a leading entertainment and gaming company, bringing sports and casino games to the Web, Facebook and Mobile. Developed by an experienced team comprised of social gaming and iGaming veterans from Betfair, Kabam, 888.com, and bwin.party, the company’s flagship product, Sports Casino, is the first of its kind on Facebook. RocketPlay is funded by Pitango Venture Capital and has offices in London, San Francisco and Tel Aviv.