social casino game debate

Last week’s Social Casino Summit in San Francisco highlighted what appears to be a very narrow and crazy part of the game market: social casino games. But this sector has more than 100 startups and big companies fighting with each other, and it is one of the most lucrative, fast-growing, and disruptive segments of gaming. In the discussion that follows, we hope you’ll see why.

I moderated a debate about the blurring lines between social casino games, where players pay real money for virtual casino chips that cannot be cashed out, and online gambling, where you can bet, lose, and win real money. The industries are headed for a collision, and some think that regulators will have to sort through thorny issues that result from the conflict. What happens, for instance, when consumers become confused over what is a real-money gambling game and what is not? Regulators may very well reach different conclusions on a state by state or region by region basis.

Our panelists in this debate included Josh Grant (pictured with coffee cup), the head of business development at RockYou. Jill Schneiderman, the vice president of games for Social Gaming Network (SGN); Charles Harper, the vice president of business development for IGT’s DoubleDown Casino; Jez San (in white shirt), the founder of PKR; Sumit Gupta, the chief executive officer of Bash Gaming; and Raf Keustermans (red third), the CEO of London-based Plumbee. (Not pictured is Ben Dale, the international development director at U.K.-based sports-betting firm Ladbrokes.)

Here is part one of our conversation. It has been edited. I’ve moved a section identifying each speaker to the bottom of the story.

pkrDean Takahashi: Let’s jump right into something that can get the blood flowing here. Jez, should social gaming be regulated? [laughter]

Jez San: Very good question. I personally believe — this is only a personal opinion — that for the social gaming industry to avoid regulation, it needs to be seen to be taking more social responsibility. There are a lot of issues that people are raising, particularly in the press, that the industry could address without having to be regulated. In the regulated real-money world, games have to be fair. They have to be purely random. They have to protect the players from themselves. They have to be very socially responsible. A priority is social responsibility.

So should social gaming companies follow some of those steps to avoid being regulated? Because if they let it be a free-for-all, there are going to be bad actors out there that are going to take the piss.

Raf Keustermans: I disagree. I think the main job for a game studio is to create a fun experience. This is entertainment. This is people wanting to have a good time. The main job of a game studio is to make something that lets people have a good time. If that means that part of what you’re doing is to create a game that isn’t 100 percent the same as a real-money gambling game — it has a different mode of gameplay — as long as players come away from that game thinking, “I had a really fun 40 minutes,” that’s the only responsibility of a game studio, to create a fun experience. It’s not the responsibility of a game studio to create something which is 100 percent the same as the real-money gambling experience.

Sumit Gupta: Let’s look at what happened in Japan a few years back. It’s not related to casino, but they had a mechanic called “complete gacha,” which essentially used some kind of game mechanics to make users spend and spend.

Takahashi: Complete gacha was like a slot machine. Can you explain it more?

Gupta: It got out of hand, and the government intervened.

Keustermans: It was basically a collection mechanic. You want to complete your collection, but there’s quite a few rare items, so you have to spend loads and loads of money on buying more and more collectibles. People were chasing a jackpot because if you managed to complete your collection, you could be super powerful. The result was that a lot of users spent meaningful amounts of money chasing it. As Sumit said, it got a bit out of hand.

Takahashi: The Japanese government intervened, and stock prices on some of these companies fell hard.

Gupta: The point is that casino games do not necessarily have the highest level of paying users. There are many other games, other game genres, where people are spending more money than in casino games. Who is leading this move to regulation? It’s interesting to see. Is it the entire industry that’s going to get regulated because this kind of thing also happened in other genres in Japan? Or is it just going to happen to casino games because we’re talking about — in the future — hopefully merging online and offline and opening up online casinos in the U.S. and creating users who, because they’re used to playing casino games on the social side of things, will spend more money that ends up in a lot of different hands?

Takahashi: I think there is a safe solution that they came up with where there is a form of gacha that’s okay. What did they wind up with there? The components that drove players to spend so much money were what they got rid of, some of the elements of chance.

Keustermans: They limited the amount of money underage players could spend in those games. This is specifically in Japan and Korea, but if users under 18 still spend more, then the game company has to pay them back, basically. That was part of the solution as well.

Josh Grant: To continue on the point, the examples that we hear about in the press — the one in Japan, and there was an action in Florida earlier this week to shut down these Internet cafes that providers operate fraudulently, claiming they were contributing money to veterans’ charities when in fact they were not — I feel like a lot of the big case studies and alarm-bell warnings that we see really amount to fraud. They’re taking advantage of underage kids. They’re doing things that are clearly wrong outside of the casino mechanic or the gaming mechanic.

Takahashi: And there are already laws against these things.

Grant: Right, and perpetrators should be punished, and that’s why we have governments and state attorneys general. You could have a separate discussion around game mechanics and the extent to which they touch on certain people’s competitive or collecting or decorating behavior. That exists in all games. RockYou has had a zoo-animal collecting game on Facebook for several years, and we have VIPs who have spent more money than whales [big spenders or high-rollers] in casinos. It’s two separate issues, but obviously if people are breaking the law — if they’re misleading through their marketing or delivering an unsafe product or selling a mature product to 13-year-olds — those are clearly wrong.

pkr small 2San: But in the real-money world, regulations protect the vulnerable. The vulnerable aren’t always children or problem gamblers. They’re also just regular people who overspend their intentions. In the real-money world, you can voluntarily choose your spending limit, and then when you hit it, you don’t go above it. Your whales in the social-gaming world, they might actually unintentionally spend a lot. If you empower them with tools so they can set their own limits, maybe the regulators wouldn’t worry about you. But the regulators probably do worry about you because you don’t know who your whales are.

Takahashi: What if your business model is driven by the whales, though?

San: If your whales are rich, it doesn’t really matter. But if the whale is some starving housewife somewhere, you’re going to be in the headlines.

Keustermans: The problem here is that there’s a lot of anecdotal data. Jez has one concern, someone else has another concern, but nobody really knows anything. There’s no data showing that there is a problem, that people are overspending.

San: You still get headlines. You still get the Daily Mail saying, “This kid spend 1,000 pounds on his iPad without his parents knowing.”

Gupta: But now you’re going from casino games to social gaming. From here, where do we stop? Should we stop people from creating an account?

San: We stop people drinking who shouldn’t drink.

casino double downCharles Harper: I think that’s a great illustration of why regulation is so dangerous. First you start out by saying, “We’re going to regulate wherever there’s random number generation.” So a game company says, “OK, I don’t need random number generation. I’m going to have slot machines where I’ve already decided these things.” The users don’t really notice the difference, so they’ve gotten out of regulation there. Then the regulators shift the rules over to cover that as well, and the next thing you know you’re not allowed to spend more than three dollars a day on FarmVille. If we know anything about online game users, [it’s] that they’ll keep shifting, just like the people providing to them will keep shifting.

San: That’s why the industry should get together and say, “We are socially responsible. Here are the things we do.” Then the regulators don’t have an argument. I think that the social-gaming industry should not be regulated. But it needs to do something to avoid being regulated.

Takahashi: Some of the excitement in this industry has been brought by free-to-play as a business model. If you overlay that on top of the traditional games business, it’s been very disruptive. It’s caused a lot of change. It’s caused a lot of opportunity. If you regulate this and put a cap on what can be spent, you ruin the free-to-play model.

San: I don’t think you need to put on a cap, an arbitrary cap, although in the real-money world we do have arbitrary caps as well. We can just empower players to choose their own spending limits. Different people have different amounts of money that would cause them problems if they spent them. If you’re not wealthy, you should be able to say, “I only want to spend $100 a week on my social-gaming enjoyment.” When you get close to that, it should say, “You’re near your limit.”

Jill Schneiderman: I think Sumit was hinting at this, but I’d love for someone to pop out of my fridge every day and tell me not to eat another piece of pizza. We have to have some sort of responsibility for ourselves at some point. We have to know that when we’re going to spend money on anything — a sweater, a social game, food, going to the movies, whatever — there are people who go to the same movie 50 times, and we don’t say that we should regulate them even though they’re getting no tangible good back from that experience. It’s hard to make that argument because I think it becomes a slippery slope.

Takahashi: There’s a parallel argument in the video game industry about regulating violence in games. Were you in favor of regulating violence in games when you were in the console business?

San: I’m not in favor of disallowing it, but I am in favor of age ratings and in not allowing violent games to be sold to underage players. I’m also very for parental control. I think that all manner of games should be allowed to be created and sold, but I don’t think a super-violent game should be sold to kids.

Takahashi: There was a self-regulatory solution there.

San: Yeah. I’m not in favor of regulations for social gaming either. I’m an advocate for social responsibility among their operators.

Takahashi: In the social casino world, as entertainment, if you just look at that world you can make a great case that it is entertainment and it doesn’t need to be regulated. What’s confusing everybody, I think, is that it’s a blurry world. Maybe we can address the topic of just how blurry this world has become, with land-based casinos, online gambling, and social casino games all together.

Keustermans: I’m not sure if the lines are becoming blurry. What I think is happening is that there’s nobody who knows what the future will hold. Nobody has a crystal ball. There are different ways people are strategizing around this convergence. There’s the funnel argument, where some companies say that there are more social gamers, free-to-play gamers, than real gamblers. If we can get 10 million people to play our social game and then convert 20 percent of those guys into spending real money, we profit.

Takahashi: More fully explained, maybe 2 percent of those social gamers would spend two or three dollars a month in the game, but the online gamblers might spend $100 in a game.

PlumbeeKeustermans: Exactly. The second strategy is around customer relationship management [CRM]. It’s kind of like what MGM has been doing with their studios. From a land-based casino point of view, the customer is on your floor maybe a couple of days a year. But when they’re not on the floor, they can still interact with your brands through a social game, and you can link that back to your loyalty scheme.

The last strategy, which is more in line with what I personally believe in, says that there’s a huge audience of people that like casino games, and there are different ways to monetize them. Some people like the games, but they don’t want to spend money. They can still be monetized through advertising. Some people like to spend a little bit of money — spend $10 or $20, buy some virtual coins, feel like a high-roller. Some people like to bet real money to win real money. That’s the convergence that I personally believe in. The casino operator of the future is going to offer content to different audiences. Right now the gambling industry focuses on a very small part of its audience. By integrating free-to-play into the equation, you broaden the audience. But nobody knows. Maybe the funnel idea is the most profitable. Nobody has any data to prove either point.

Harper: Yeah, I agree. One of the points that came up was the idea of using games like this to educate. It’s counter to what you’re saying because if you’re using these games to educate, you’re not making money. That’s a simple truth. If you’re not making it the most entertaining experience possible, then you’re not going to be making money. What you need to do is create each level of game, optimized for the greatest amount of entertainment, for each level of the audience. Exactly what you’re saying. Otherwise you’re only a marginally successful company, and I don’t think anybody in this room wants to be marginally successful when they can see much higher levels of success within their grasp if only they tweak a game one way or the other. It may not make the game more educational, but it can make it a lot more fun. That leads to another issue that we were discussing, which is, what’s the responsibility toward realism when you talk about casino games?

San: The regulators are very interested in that. They’re very interested in what goes on if a game looks like a casino game, or looks like a poker game, but it reduces or changes the possible reward. If you educate people to have an unrealistic expectation of winning, then what is your responsibility if people then go and play a real-money game? Even if it’s not from the same supplier, what is the responsibility there?

Keustermans: There is already legislation around that. If you’re following the conversion model – if you’re using a social game to get people to play a real-money game – there’s already legislation in the U.K. and most other regulated markets mandating that the random number generators work the same way. That’s already covered.

San: That’s for products from the same company, though. What if you’re just doing a roulette game or a blackjack game, but it happens to have unnatural payouts because it’s not real?

Gupta: Well, what about a racing game where a car doesn’t drive like a real one?

Takahashi: It’s interesting when you bring the regulators into it. That can change the market itself. Maybe a regulator might take two years to figure out whether your game is an entertainment product or if it’s truly a gambling game. How long does that actually take them?

Grant: Anecdotally, we can look at Zynga as an example, with their real-money product launch in the U.K. You look at the Zynga casino products, compared the game mechanics and game types that are available on Facebook in the free-to-play market offered by Zynga, [and] they really bear very little resemblance. In addition, we can see that Zynga has not used the traditional social tools and the framework that led to its success in building up the audience it has, with its viral channels and loot drops and rewards and generous pay tables. They haven’t brought any of that into the real-money experience thus far. Clearly, from a very large and well-established and successful company, they have drawn a clear delineation between those products and those experiences. It doesn’t appear, in any way — at least from what you can see in the market — that they’re trying to take one set of users and educate or drive them into another.

Keustermans: We’ve done the same. We have a real-money slots app on Facebook in the U.K. as well. It’s called Boulder Slots. Our free-to-play game is called Mirrorball Slots. One is pink, and the other is blue. They have different reels and different games. It’s a different registration process. There’s no overlap. They’re different products for different people with different expectations.

Gupta: Between those two games, are you doing any cross-promotion?

Keustermans: There’s no cross-promotion.

Takahashi: There’s an interesting question there, though. Why shouldn’t there be any cross-promotion between those two?

Keustermans: First of all, our audience in free-to-play is relatively small, so there are practical reasons why. But also, I personally don’t believe that there is a lot of upside. We’re probably going to run a test at some point to see what extent there is overlap, but from what I hear from companies that have tried it, it’s below 1 percent conversion. There are quite a few companies that probably don’t want to go public on this, but it’s very hard. It’s so much hassle to cross-promote and annoy your free-to-play users with real-money messaging. For me it’s not worth it to pay for. It’s more efficient from a time and cost perspective to acquire real-money users rather than trying to find the five guys among your million free-to-play users who might be interested. I don’t have any hard data either way, but I’m not really a believer.

Harper: We do something that goes the other way around. In DoubleDown Casino, since the acquisition by IGT, we have access to IGT’s online games through the RGS, the remote game server. Actual online for-wager slot games, to use an example, that you can play for real money in the U.K. — we can bring those in the U.S. for virtual currency. They’re the same game. So we have the reverse of that model running. I don’t know if there are any useful data there, and I probably wouldn’t share if there were, but if you want to look at the reverse process, it seems to be working very well.

Takahashi: So in this case, when a player walks out of a casino, the casino loses track of them. But if you get them to play an online game, then you can get more analytics on that person. You can find out a lot more useful information.

Harper: You’re getting analytics, but you’re also getting to keep in touch with them. It serves both purposes.

Grant: You can sustain engagement in those periods when they’re not in a particular experience.

casino bingo bashGupta: I think if you can get a user to play your brand of games, if you then run away from that, it doesn’t make any sense. The whole point is to have your brand be there to tell the user where they are. That’s the power of a brand. That’s why cross-platform works. Our cross-platform users are the best users we have.

Keustermans: But cross-platform is a different thing. If we launch Mirrorball Slots on mobile, we’re not going to give it a different name, but it is obviously something different. It’s a different business model. It’s not cross-platform, it’s cross-business-model.

Gupta: Are you going to try expanding that way?

Keustermans: I think it’s a bit too early. I want to make sure that the product is optimal before we start testing anything, because I don’t want to waste too much time and energy. But I’m not personally a believer in that kind of conversion.

Ben Dale: As Ladbrokes makes its move into the social gaming space, it’s not wedded to the brand. We would use whatever brand works best for us. Our viewers are not saying, “We need to have a Ladbrokes-branded social game.” Our view on conversion, though it’s very early days, is that it’s unproven. But we’ve seen the power of social in its own right. At this stage, based on the data that we have access to and that we’ve asked others for, we don’t see social as an obvious conversion tool for the Ladbrokes brand.

Schneiderman: We see the same thing. We see that social really does have potential. I know there’s not a ton of data for us to firmly state what the funnel will be, but from our perspective, one thing that we don’t talk about much is the intimidation factor of real-money gambling — going in person to places where you may feel like you don’t know the games, you aren’t familiar with the games. Social, in lots of ways, is making people who have never attempted this world feel comfortable with these types of games. We’re not going to be able to measure conclusive proof of that for quite some time, but I think it’s making a big difference.

Takahashi: That makes an argument that the companies across the borders here are actually your friends. You’re doing them a favor by teaching them how to play.

Schneiderman: Absolutely. I think it’s advantageous for companies to partner up in this space, for real-money gambling people to find social partners so that they can understand this type of user. They may not pay up front, but if you monetize them at just the right points, you can make as much as from your whales, or even more. But there are different compulsions that drive those desires to become spenders in a non-gambling, non-up-front-payment type of game. We’re friends, not foes.

Grant: Also, for the land-based operators, what do you think the average age is of the slot-machine player in a land-based casino? Look at that and compare to the average age for slots players in social channels or on mobile. At some point, if they don’t find a way to engage those people where they’re choosing to spend their time, as their already-aging population continues to age and mature, there’s going to be a very large gap there.

casino myvegasTakahashi: Getting back to some of the blurriness, we have some interesting companies out there. The MyVegas folks have a partnership with MGM, and MGM gives comps in Vegas as rewards or prizes in the MyVegas social casino games on Facebook. Or Gamesys is a real-money gambling company on top of Facebook, which hasn’t been perceived as a real-money gambling house in the past. We have some blurriness there. What do you guys think about that?

Dale: I think blurriness can work very well. You see PokerStars develop a strategy now of investing now in retail spaces, buying land-based casinos or taking stakes in them. That’s very interesting. I believe PKR previously had land-based tournaments. It works very well as a concept. It’s very neat. I think that blurriness has been around for quite some time. I can’t say that it’s particularly new.

Takahashi: There’s another area where this can spill into, and that’s the rest of video games. One of the hottest things right now in video games is e-sports, competitive gaming in real locations. People want to be the best at League of Legends. But what if you put some money down on it? What if you can win money?

San: I think that will happen, and there are obviously companies that will facilitate that, but I think it’s fraught with problems. There’s collusion problems. There’s fairness problems. There’s all sorts of things like that. Games that have not been designed to be played for real money being played for real money — you’re really asking for trouble.

I should say, live tournaments being played for money aren’t a big problem. The big problem is people playing at home. You don’t know who’s colluding with whom. Someone could throw a match to allow someone else to win. It’s a real problem.

Takahashi: This does exist already, though, with Virgin Gaming on top of Xbox Live as an app now. For the past few weeks, it’s been very popular. You can enter tournaments for real money, playing games that you’re very good at.

Gupta: We’ve seen some of this in fantasy sports. It’s still illegal in the U.S. to run a real-money fantasy sports site.

Harper: But what we’re talking about here is entirely different. This is skill-based gaming. That’s something entirely different from what we’re talking about, which is gambling. There are lots of sites that have been around for a long time doing that kind of thing. And horse betting is legal online in the United States. Most people forget that. There’s a lot of that going on right now. It’s a very different marketplace, and it has extremely different characteristics.

Keustermans: Going back to the point about blurriness, you can call it that, but you can also say that gambling is going back to its roots. For a long time, gambling — and specifically online gambling — has been separate from the entertainment industry. It’s been sidelined in its own little world. Right now I think it’s very exciting to see that gambling companies and startups are saying that gambling is not a separate notion that exists completely in its own world. Gambling is part of the entertainment experience. Putting real money on the line can make all kinds of things much more fun.

How you do it, obviously, needs to be very careful. There are a lot of risks. But for gambling to go back and become more embedded in entertainment again, that’s great. One of the biggest mistakes the gambling industry made when they started making online or digital experiences is that they forgot that land-based casinos, for example, aren’t just about gambling. They’re nice resorts with swimming pools and clubs and bars and restaurants. People like the package because it’s a very entertaining package. Gambling plays a key role in that.

Takahashi: Gambling is long overdue for a shake-up, though. It needs to be disrupted.

Keustermans: Definitely. That’s true.

San: It’s obvious that gambling is entertainment, and people have an expectation of how much their entertainment costs. If they really want to measure it, they have an expectation of how much it costs them per hour. How much does a social game cost per hour? It definitely has to be entertainment, whether it’s social gaming or social gambling or real-money gambling. It has to still provide value.

Takahashi: Where all the territories headed on these issues of blurriness or regulation? Can you guys spell out some of them?

Harper: One thing I’ll say is that I don’t think regulation is necessarily the opposite of blurry. Regulation can create blurry as well. I’m not going to try to answer that question, but as far as saying, “Is it going to be blurry or is it going to be regulated?” I don’t think those are different sides. It could be blurry and regulated or blurry and unregulated.

San: And regulation can also stifle creativity and innovation. So there are big downsides to regulation. But there are also opportunities in regulation because then you know what’s allowed or isn’t allowed. Someone’s decided it.

Keustermans: There’s a degree of hysteria, primarily driven by tabloid media and so on. But I think the conversations we have in the U.K., for example, with the U.K. Gambling Commission, have been very constructive. They say, “We don’t understand what this is. It looks a bit like gambling, but it isn’t gambling.”

San: They tend to be very pragmatic. They genuinely want to learn and figure it out and work with the industry. They’re taking a very careful, measured approach.

Takahashi: Is Nevada going to be as pragmatic as the U.K.?

Keustermans: I’d say that they have bigger issues to deal with right now than looking at games. But I would think that right now, in the U.S. games industry, the focus is going to be on digital real-money online gambling before they have time and energy left to start looking at free-to-play games.

Harper: My experience, to be clear, is very limited. I work in the social side of the business. But there’s a lot of crossover right now. The crossover, to your point, is making things very blurry. In Nevada and New Jersey, they know how to regulate gambling. They’ve been doing it a long time. What they don’t understand is, when you say “social” or when you say “interactive,” there are aspects to those words that they probably intuitively get. These are people who use computers every day. But they’re not quite sure how to regulate that yet. That’s where they’re going to be more paced and a bit slower.

But as far as regulating the gambling aspect of that, they’re already professionals. They know what they’re doing and they’ve been doing it a very long time. At least from my vantage point, the only place they’re hesitating is when you start talking about social. They want to make sure that social either is or is not gambling. If it is, they know what to do about it. If it’s not, they’d love to just get it off their plate and not have to worry about it. Until they’re very clear on that, though, they’re uncomfortable.

casino rockyouGrant: I think that we in the social industry have an opportunity to engage and approach them and do some education. One of the great things we have is data. We have more data than anybody else in any other type of industry, perhaps with the exception of the traditional gaming industry. But that data can be a powerful tool to educate them.

San: I think social gaming has much more data than the real-money gaming industry. You have analytics on all the various parts of the funnel and all the instrumentation inside the games. You have significantly more data than the real-money industry.

Grant: But also in terms of community management and player management: the community service systems, the community management systems, the marketing, the records, the data, our ability to express how many people are playing or how many issues we have. What’s going up? What’s going down? How do we address that? What’s our response time? How do we triage or prioritize? Does someone complain five times or do they complain once? There’s lots of good data there. But with comparable information sets, we have a good opportunity to do some education.

Dale: I also don’t think that’s going to be a priority when you’ve got single-digit play-for-real customers. If you’ve got social gamers, the numbers vary, but I think it’s a single-digit number that are actually depositing money. I can’t see why a regulator would focus on that. If the numbers were to somehow increase, then you might see a change, but based on behaviors that we’ve seen over the last few years, there’s no reason for that to change. Then, if you do regulate, do you only regulate those customers that are playing for real, or do you regulate the entire A-to-Z of the business? So I think it’s very unclear how all that will work. To regulate that portion of players that are depositing, it’s potentially more time and effort than it’s actually worth.

Here are the introductory remarks for each speaker:

Josh Grant: We’ve acquired a company that provides a spin on the social casino space with a bingo title that leverages the sweepstakes model to allow players to win real cash and prizes in a freemium model game. We spent a lot of time and worked with the studio to create a platform by which we can rewards-based-game enable third-party content. We’re moving into a B-to-B or picks-and-shovels approach rather than trying to be a content provider.

Jill Schneiderman: I’m Jill Schneiderman. I’m the vice president of games for SGN. We’re a cross-platform social games company. What we mean by that is that you can play our games on Facebook, on iOS, on tablet, on mobile, on Android, wherever you are, and have a connected experience with people on other platforms. We focus on social casino games and puzzle games. We’re particularly interested in the place where both of those meet and the hybrid types of games that those can create. We’re about 90 people. We’re located in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, I’m not based on Buenos Aires. We were founded by Chris DeWolfe. He’s the former CEO and founder of Myspace. We have deep roots in social and what it means to make a really social experience. That’s our focus as a company.

casino sgn bingo blingoCharles Harper: I’m Charles Harper. I’m the vice president of business development for DoubleDown, which as you probably all know was acquired a year ago January by IGT. Today I’ll be playing the part of Marcus Yoder, who’s my counterpart on the interactive side. I’m sure you’re all pretty familiar with DoubleDown Casino at this point, or I hope you are. We started out as a very small independent social game company with one game, and that’s DoubleDown Casino. We haven’t really varied from that. Through the acquisition with IGT, we’re starting to get to know this world quite a bit better and learning where our place in that world is.

Jez San: I’m Jez San. I’m the founder of, which is a Europe-based real-money poker site. We’re slightly different from the other real-money games in that it’s a very social game with 3D avatars and a bit of body language. It’s more fun and more intimate. We recently moved into the mobile space. We’re not on Facebook.

Sumit Gupta: My name is Sumit Gupta. I’m the CEO of Bash Gaming. We operate Bingo Bash, which at the moment is the biggest bingo site in the world. We have a portfolio of other casino games, cross-platform games. Our goal is to make our games available on any operating system, essentially.

Raf Keustermans: I’m Raf Keustermans, co-founder and CEO of Plumbee, a London-based social casino game studio. We have one game right now on Facebook, Mirrorball Slots. It’s going to mobile in the next couple of weeks. I have a background in real-money gambling. I actually worked at Unibet, an online gambling operator, for quite a few years, and moved from there to EA and Playfish. We also have a joint venture with Unibet in real-money gambling. We’re 50 percent owners of Bonza Gaming. Bonza is a social real-money gambling startup. It was actually the third company allowed to do real money up on Facebook. Bonza Slots is their first public launch, about two months ago. They’re doing real-money on Facebook in the U.K. for now, and we’ll see how it goes as far as what Facebook’s plans are and what other platforms we can bring that to.

Ben Dale: I’m Ben Dale from Ladbrokes. I’m based in London. Ladbrokes is a U.K. business with 2,000-plus shops globally, predominantly sports shops. We’ve been online for quite some time now, since the late ’90s. We have lots of experience in the high street and online. We’re not currently in social, but we’ve been looking very closely at the space now for nine months or so. We’re believers in social and the value it can bring. That’s why we’re here, to get an understanding and explore social with you all today.