Forget "Mafia Wars," Zynga Is Getting Into the Gambling Business

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Dec. 6 2012 3:17 PM

If You Thought "FarmVille" Was Addictive, Wait Till You See What Zynga Is Doing Next

Zynga Nevada gaming license
One way for Zynga to get a gaming license in Nevada might be to partner with an existing casino.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Zynga Poker is fun at first. But after a while, one of two things happens. Either you get tired of losing, or you get tired of not winning actual money.

The luster is likewise fading from once-hot Zynga titles like FarmVille, CityVille, and Mafia Wars, and the San Francisco-based social gaming company's stock has plummeted. It turns out people are only willing to shell out so much real money for the "virtual goods" that Zynga hawks in those games. So now the struggling company has a new revenue proposition: actual poker. For actual cash.

Reuters reports that the company has applied to the Nevada Gaming Control Board for a "preliminary finding of suitability" to run an online gaming operation in the state. As TechCrunch's Anthony Ha explains, that's an alternative to the traditional first step toward getting a gaming license in the state, which is to approach the commission with a deal in hand to buy a casino. The more likely path for Zynga is to partner with an existing casino in the state once it's clear that state and federal regulations will allow it.


The move by Zynga is a bold (or desperate) bet that a wave of states will begin to allow online gambling now that the Justice Department appears to have cleared a path. Though its faddish Facebook games are literally going out of style, Zynga's sheer size and experience in the online gaming field would seem to position it well to capitalize on such a trend. If that happens, though, it might need to rethink the rhetoric about how its games are "addictive."

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.


Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 20 2014 7:00 AM Gallery: The Red Planet and the Comet
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.