Mike Isaac

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Zynga Acquires Casino Gaming Vets Spooky Cool Labs

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Zynga announced on Wednesday it had acquired Spooky Cool Labs, a Chicago, Ill.-based gaming studio focused heavily on real-money gaming titles.

“We have a legacy in social casino franchises with Zynga Poker, and we believe that free-to-play social casino games for the Web and on mobile have the potential to reach and connect a much broader audience,” Zynga’s chief revenue officer Barry Cottle said in a company blog post.

“Spooky Cool Labs is the right team to help us bring the feeling of being on a casino floor and the thrill of hitting a big jackpot right to players wherever they play,” he said.

Terms of the deal, which was first noted by TechCrunch, weren’t disclosed.

As Zynga has signalled for some time, real-money titles are a big bet for the company’s future. It recently launched two of its first real-money games in the United Kingdom, ZyngaPlusPoker and ZyngaPlusCasino. This was the fruit of Zynga’s partnership with bWin, a major operator that has licenses to operate online real-money gaming websites in multiple countries across Europe.

But real-money gaming is still nascent for Zynga, especially due to restrictions on online gambling in the United States, one of Zynga’s key markets. The company has said it hopes to eventually release real-money games in the U.S., but necessary legislation and lobbying efforts could take at least a year or more before Zynga sees any progress.

The acquisition also comes on the heels of a large round of layoffs — approximately 18 percent of Zynga’s workforce — in an effort to reduce costs and restructure the business toward mobile.

Spooky Cool Labs will stay based in Chicago, and founder Joe Kamikow will also continue leading game design for Aristocrat Leisure Limited, a major slot machine company based in Australia.


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