Zynga’s Former General Manager of Poker Cashes in His Chips

Wall Street gets excited whenever Zynga talks about the casino category because gambling could mean a whole new revenue stream for the social games company.

Zynga Poker GM Lo Toney Unveils Zynga Casino at Unleashed 2011

But investors won’t like hearing this tidbit: AllThingsD has learned today that Laurence “Lo” Toney, former general manager of Zynga Poker, has left the company.

Toney has updated his LinkedIn profile to reflect his departure, and we were able to confirm with him separately that he is no longer at the company. During his nearly three years at the company, he spent two years as the general manager of Zynga Poker, which is the company’s longest-standing franchise. Following his stint in Poker, Toney held a general manager role in mobile, where he worked on its publishing efforts.

He confirmed via email that he has no immediate plans for what he will do next: “My departure is less about Zynga and more about the vast number of opportunities that currently exist in the Valley. I have been approached by several organization to lead teams and companies that I find exciting and compelling. It is the right time for me in my career to move on.”

Released in July 2007, Poker was Zynga’s first game on Facebook and continues to register nearly 40 million monthly active users.

It is the company’s roots in Poker that make it a strong contender in the online casino space. In addition to managing the game, Toney took charge of leading the company’s real-money gaming strategy, which involved making two acquisitions, including MarketZero of Austin. He also appeared onstage at the company’s Unleashed event last year to announce the company’s casino franchise, which now includes poker, bingo and Zynga Slingo (slots on a Bingo-style game board).

Last week, CEO and founder Mark Pincus said casino would be one of the company’s prime investment categories, after disclosing the news that the company would miss full-year projections for the second time.

Toney is one of the top employees to leave Zynga recently, along with various other C-level executives and general managers. Zynga’s retention has become a sore spot as the company’s stock price continues to plummet and Zynga struggles to make the transition from a Facebook games company to a mobile games company.

However, Toney’s departure doesn’t necessarily leave a gap in the company’s leadership ranks for real-money gaming. In August, AllThingsD reported that Maytal Ginzburg was joining Zynga as the company’s chief operating officer in charge of new markets, including its real-money gaming efforts. Ginzburg joined from 888 Holdings, which offers real-money games such as poker, bingo and sports betting, in markets where online gambling is regulated.

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