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Why should poker be so hot? Partnered with Zynga, RocketPlay launches social sports casino game on Facebook

RocketPlay has partnered with Zynga to bring its social sports-betting games to Facebook and Zynga.com.

San Francisco-based RocketPlay has launched Sports Casino, a social game where you cannot win real money but can still live the fantasy of betting in a casino sportsbook.

The title fits with Zynga’s suite of other casino games, such as Slingo, Zynga Poker, and more. Therefore, it is a good game to cross-promote to Zynga’s 306 million monthly active users on Facebook and Zynga.com, said Matt Cullen, the president of RocketPlay, in an interview with GamesBeat.

“Sports Casino delivers an authentic virtual sports-betting experience to social gaming and sports fans,” said Mani Honigstein, the chief executive officer of RocketPlay. “We’re thrilled to launch with Zynga’s support, a company that has set the social gaming benchmark and will help us bring a great game to a wide range of players.”

Sports Casino gives players a feeling that they’re in a Las Vegas-style sportsbook, placing bets on global sports events with real-time odds. But the betting is pretend. You can buy virtual currency with real money, but you cannot cash out your winnings as you can in real-money online gambling. Besides sports, you can also play casino games such as video poker, slots, and blackjack during sports downtime. The experience is social since you can play with friends in a kind of second-screen experience as you watch live sports on television. You can bet, for instance, whether a team will score a touchdown on its next drive across the football gridiron.

The Sports Casino game is launching just in time for betting on professional and college football, baseball, and international soccer. The game targets male gamers on Facebook. If real-money gambling is approved in the U.S. or is allowed in other territories, then Cullen says RocketPlay can adapt the game for real-money wagering as legal restrictions are lifted.

After the game launches, RocketPlay will keep updating the game with new features and news ports, including hockey and basketball.

RocketPlay’s team includes online gambling veterans from Betfair, Kabam, 888.com, and bwin.party. The firm is funded by Pitango Venture Capital and has offices in San Francisco, London, and Tel Aviv, Israel.

RocketPlay has gone through a few pivots in its history. It was founded in 2008 as a social network for soccer fans. It launched cash-based weekly fantasy sports games and licensed them to newspapers. Last summer, it began adapting its strategy to make social casino games.

“Everybody in this space was making a lot of money,” said Cullen, who previously worked at horse-racing online betting firm Betfair. “Everyone was killing it, but nobody was touching sports. We married the Las Vegas sportsbook experience with the United Kingdom’s online sports experience.”

So RocketPlay built its free-to-play platform for sports betting and teamed up with Zynga, which is publishing titles from third-party developers.

Currently, online sports betting is not legal in the U.S., with the exception of horse racing. It is also legal inside the state of Nevada, but it’s not clear what will happen in terms of broader legalization. The company has five employees in the U.S. and 16 in Tel Aviv. Pitango Venture Capital has invested less than $10 million in two rounds. RocketPlay is not currently looking for a new round.


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