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Analyst: Zynga ‘cannot afford to miss out on’ real-money gambling in New Jersey — and it might

Above: Boyd casinos in Atlantic City.

Image Credit: Boyd Gaming

Online gambling is legal in the state of New Jersey, but only casino operators in Atlantic City can apply for the appropriate license. That means that online gaming organizations looking to get in on the action have to partner with one of the existing casino’s in the East Coast’s biggest gambling city.

New Jersey gave the Atlantic City casinos until June 30 to submit their online-gaming business plans, and so far 10 of the 12 casinos in the city have disclosed who they are partnering with. Missing from that list is social-gaming giant Zynga, which has made it clear that it wants to move into real-money gaming wherever it can — and has already done so in the U.K.

GamesBeat reached out to Zynga, but it refused to comment on who it could be partnering with.

“Zynga’s capability to partner with one of the land-based casino operators in Atlantic City should be monitored closely, as it could be the single most important near-term event for the company as it relates to its real-money online gaming strategy,” Eilers Research analyst Adam Krejcik wrote in a note to investors this morning.

Atlantic City vendors have until July 29 to apply for the online-gaming license. If Zynga is going to make an announcement, Krejcik expects it to come in the next few weeks.

In the U.K., Zynga has a partnership with online-gambling conglomerate Bwin.party. Casino operator Boyd revealed that it already partnered with Bwin.party to run its online-gaming business in New Jersey.

“[Zynga could] tack-on to the Boyd & bwin.party pact, which is the most likely given its pre-existing relationship with bwin.party,” said Krejcik.

The analyst also laid out three other possibilities for Zynga. It could partner with Atlantic Club or Revel, since those are the two operators that have yet to reveal their online partners. It could license its properties to a variety of the other online-gaming sites that already have casino partners.

Or Zynga could do nothing.

“New Jersey will likely be the largest real-money-gaming market opportunity in the U.S. over the next two to three years and one that Zynga cannot afford to miss out on, in our opinion,” said Krejcik. “Gov. [Chris] Christie has said he expects real-money gaming to go live by November this year and anticipates $160 million in tax revenues during the first year, implying revenues in excess of $1 billion. We are currently forecasting a market size of $400 million to $500 million, which we believe is far more realistic.”

But even if Zynga does find a partner, it will face a lot of competition. Eilers Research expects that the immediate financial impact would only add about $14 million to $28 million in revenue annually to Zynga’s books.

“In our opinion, [a New Jersey real-money-gambling announcement] would be well received by the investment community and extend the ‘Don Mattrick rally,’” Eilers Research said. “If Zynga is unable to secure an online partnership, it will effectively be closed out of the New Jersey market and we would question just how serious Zynga’s real-money online-gaming ambitions are going forward.”

Earlier this month, Zynga revealed that long-time chief executive Mark Pincus would step aside to let former Microsoft Xbox chief Don Mattrick take the top spot. Pincus remains on as chief product officer. That news caused Zynga’s stock to rally — hence the “Don Mattrick rally.”

Zynga is currently trading at $3.40, which is up from a one-month low of $2.52 on June 24.


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