How does Facebook affect Vegas?

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Facebook has changed the way many people communicate, but the social network has also played a hand in how people gamble. At the recent Social Gambling & Gaming Summit in Las Vegas, several game developers and land-based casino executives talked about the importance Facebook has held in growing the business.

Casinos and game developers are finding more devoted gamers (and paying customers) through Facebook — and not just at poker and slots games. As a result, some casinos are even bringing popular Facebook games such as Plants vs. Zombies (an EA title) into real-life with physical games based on the apps.

Derrick Morton, a speaker at the Social Gambling & Gaming Summit, is the CEO of FlowPlay — makers of Vegas World, a total Vegas experience that goes beyond cards and slots and allows users to work their way into upgraded suites, with jazzier outfits and invites to better parties. Vegas World has roughly 350,000 monthly active users, Morton said, and 70,000 daily active users. Morton spoke with Inside Facebook about how Facebook affects social gambling.

Inside Facebook: In terms of more social gambling in general, what does Facebook have to offer?

Derrick Morton: There’s really nothing unique to Facebook about gambling, or about social gaming, except for the social graph. The social graph allows you to have access to activities, leaderboards that show activity by day, activity by week, activity by game, people can share on their Facebook wall and compare on the leaderboard, and it’s big from a sharing point of view. That’s what Facebook is all about — sharing major milestones, jackpots and things that happen to you in the game with your friends and brag about it.

IF: Could more major land-based casinos take hold and develop Facebook games or some kind of portal where people could play their games through Facebook?

DM: Already, Caesar’s Palace runs the No. 1 casino game on Facebook, Slot-O-Mania, and they also own Bingo Blitz. So that’s two of the top Facebook games already owned by them. MGM (Grand) owns the No. 3 or 4 social casino, which is MyVegas. It does a really excellent job at connecting real-world casinos with virtual casinos. When you play MyVegas, you can get coupons or steak dinners or other things like that at an actual casino. So there’s a lot of activity already from land-based casinos entering the world of social gambling.

For us, though, what’s fun is we make about 1/3 of our revenue from people buying each other gifts and drinks inside the game. When you’re playing with someone else, you can buy a round of martinis, a round of champagne, or a round of beers for the players who are in the room with you. It improves the odds of everyone in the game temporarily.

IF: Do you feel we’ll see a little more revenue on the casino games front in 2014? Are more people starting to play casino games through Facebook?

DM: The growth curve is probably not as steep as it was a year or two ago. Industry analysts only expect it to grow about 10 to 15 percent year-over-year for the next few years. I think the last I saw was 4.4 billion by 2015.

IF: What do you see coming up in the next year for social gaming and gambling on Facebook? 

DM: I think what’s going to happen is current gambling games in the real land-based casinos are highly regulated. And because of that regulation, they’re slow to evolve. Even if you have a great idea for a new slots game, it can take you 2 to 3 years to submit that idea, the artwork, the process, to regulators to get the approval that is necessary to actually get that game in front of consumers.

In the online and social world, that can be compressed down to weeks. I expect that the evolution of social casinos will run far ahead of real casinos, just because they’re not as regulated. Hybrid games are coming out — like Fringo, that combines the elements of slots and bingo. It’s gonna take what people are familiar with and creating an entirely new game out of it.

IF: You talk about how the evolution can move a lot quicker online because there’s not much red tape to cut through. Could a land-based casino try a game online, then reverse-engineer and bring it to the real world?

DM: I think that’s totally true. You still have to go through regulators for approval, but it’s certainly easier for them to go through that A/B process and the introduction process and to test new things before they take it to the real world. Testing a new game online can cost you $50,000-$100,000. Taking a new game to regulators and getting it on the floor to find out that it’s a failure could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions.

Readers: Do you play casino-based games on Facebook?

Top image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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