Zynga Hires a New Executive to Lead Online Gambling Ambitions

Zynga has added some firepower to its online gambling ambitions.

AllThingsD has learned that Maytal Ginzburg is joining Zynga as the company’s chief operating officer in charge of new markets, according to her LinkedIn profile.

As recently as July, Ginzburg was the SVP of regulated markets at 888 Holdings, where she was responsible for acquiring customers and other operations.

888 Holdings operates an online portal at 888.com, offering real-money games such as poker, bingo and sports betting, in markets where online gambling is regulated. More recently, it started to investigate the opportunity in social and mobile gaming through the 2010 acquisition of Mytopia from Real Dice.

Ginzburg has not yet started to work at Zynga, but is expected to begin soon. Social Casino Intelligence was first to point out that she was hired by the company. A spokesman declined to comment.

The hire is important for the Facebook games maker because it shows that, while a number of executives have decided to leave, it can still recruit talent at a very high level.

During the company’s last earnings call, CEO Mark Pincus confirmed that Zynga’s first real-money products were in development, and that it believes it has a huge opportunity to leverage its strong casino presence on Facebook, including with Zynga Poker and newer properties, like Bingo and Slots. Pincus said he expects to launch Zynga’s first real-money gaming products in international markets in the first half of 2013, subject to licensing approvals.

At this time, it’s unclear what Ginzburg will be doing at Zynga, but from an interview she conducted with a U.K. publication, you can tell Zynga was very much on her radar.

She told Inside Poker Business that she believed it was important to integrate social features into 888’s existing products in order to make interactions less serious and more welcoming to casual players. One product that social features helped with was PokerCams, which allowed users to see who they were playing with online.

“We want to attract players who will play for casual entertainment, and we therefore needed to deliver social platforms that are easy to use yet provide all the interactive features users expect,” Ginzburg told Inside Poker Business, adding that “the biggest risk we were running was that casual players avoided the product because of a lack of interaction, which is why so many have gone to Zynga.”

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