Social casino market tops US$1.6bn

The global market for social casino games, played on networks such as Facebook, has doubled to US$1.6bn in less than a year, according to new figures.

Total annual revenues generated by gambling-style games such as poker, slots and table games on social networks are also expected to reach US$2.4bn in the next three years, “even in the most conservative scenario”, according to digital goods measurement agency Superdata.

North America remains by far the largest market, generating US$659.8m in the last 12 months, ahead of Europe with US$446.4m, Asia with US$311.4m, LatAm with US$180.7m and Australia with US$59.8m.

Players of social casino games in North America also yielded an average of US$78 revenue per paying user, 1.8x more than the US$43 from paying players of regular social games such as Farmville. The average yield per paying user from casino-style games has continued to increase in recent months, despite an overall decline for social games as a whole since May.

The agency however warned that while social casino games undoubtedly helped familiarise players with gambling products such as slot machines and online poker, operators aiming to convert social casino players to real-money play would have to manage “unrealistic expectations of payouts”, given that play-money social casino games rewarded players better and and more often, albeit only virtually with points and prizes.

“Once players switch to online gambling, they’ll find that slot machines are not quite as generous, and that rival poker players are far more competitive,” observed Superdata.

Sue Rossiter, director of policy and projects for the world’s largest egaming industry representative body, the Remote Gambling Association, yesterday told the Social Gambling Games Meetup in London that social casino players’ “unrealistic expectations” of winning when they ventured into real-money play was one of the reasons why the sector had  been attracting increased attention from regulators of late. The UK Gambling Commission is understood to be looking into whether or not social gambling requires regulation, despite it failing to meet one of the main legal definitions of what constitutes gambling, namely the ability of players to cash out winnings.

Zynga, the company behind the world’s biggest online poker game and one of Facebook’s most popular social games, Texas Hold’Em Poker, announced in July that it was to launch real-money versions of its gambling-style games in regulated gaming markets in the first half of 2013. While Zynga did not provide any detail on how exactly it intended to enter these markets, Facebook is widely expected to be one of these channels, following the launch of the first real-money gambling games on the platform, Gamesys’ Bingo & Slots Friendzy, in the UK last month.

But despite its rapid growth, the social gambling games market is still dwarfed by the older and more established real-money online gambling sector, with interactive revenues projected by leading data business H2 Gambling Capital to reach US$36.5bn in 2012, representing 9.5% of total global gambling.

Superdata’s CEO Joost van Dreunen will be presenting more detailed data from the report at the forthcoming Social Gaming Summit to be held in London on 15 November.

Casino Choice journalist

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