Are social casino games still one of the hottest categories of games? That’s one of the subjects that will be explored at a special social casino track at the Casual Connect Conference in San Francisco. This year, the event will have a special focus on social casino games, which are on platforms such as social networks or mobile devices.

With more than 40 speakers on the topic, the Casual Games Association, which puts on the event, is billing the social casino track as the largest of its kind in North America. Casual Connect is where the game industry gathers to explore the latest topics for casual gamers, or the larger market of people who don’t consider themselves to be hardcore gamers. Held for years in Seattle, the conference organizers have moved the event to San Francisco this year from July 30 to Aug. 1.

Social casino games take the old card games and slot machines and turn them into more social experiences. They are usually free-to-play games, where players can spend real money on virtual coins but can’t cash them out. As such, they are considered entertainment and not gambling. In real-money online gambling, players spend real money and can take home real winnings. Real-money online gambling is seeing a resurgence as regulators seeking tax revenues are beginning to permit it in various jurisdictions around the world. Social casino games are benefiting from that resurgence as well as renewed interest in casino games as social experiences.

Eilers Research said today that Caesar’s Interactive Entertainment has now surpassed Zynga as the largest social casino game publisher in the world thanks to the success of its Caesar’s Casino, Bingo Blitz, and Slotomania titles. These have 18 percent of the market, while Zynga’s social casino games have 15 percent, followed by IGT with 14 percent.

Brock Pierce, the managing director of Clearstone Gaming Fund, and Jesse Janosov, vice president of casino games at Zynga, organized the track for Casual Connect. (Pierce is also speaking at our GamesBeat 2013 conference this year, on Oct. 29-30, and he is organizing a panel on social casino games).

“Casino is one of the fastest growing sectors of the games industry; an opportunity supported by the investment of casual, social gamers,” said Jessica Tams, managing director of the Casual Games Association. “Casual Connect is the perfect forum at which game developers and casino companies can meet, share information and collaborate.”

In an interview with GamesBeat, Pierce said that the convergence of online gambling and social casino games is one of the forces that has made the sector hot. Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware have legalized online gambling, and other states are expected to follow. The market is also growing because of the rise of smartphone and tablet penetration.

“The big thing that has changed is that everyone believes the convergence will happen over the next 12 months,” Pierce said. “There won’t be meaningful revenues until the friction goes away from the registration experience and the laws get in place.”

He believes that iOS, Google Play and Facebook will be the key platforms.

“I think you’ll see a significant presence of casino people at a video game conference,” Pierce said. “Casino games are the one kind of content that has stood the test of time for decades.”

The topics include:

  • Social Casino: Where We Started and Where We’re Going
  • Five Online Social Myths
  • What Social Means to Big Casinos
  • Removing Risks from Building Games; Maxing Profits
  • Real Money Gaming Features Applied to Non-Casino Video Games
  • Real Money Gaming: Review and What’s Ahead

Speakers include:

  • Robert Melendres, EVP Interactive, IGT
  • Rob Glaser, founder and CEO, RealNetworks
  • Nicole Opus, executive producer, Zynga
  • Jose Brotons, executive director/cofounder, Product Madness/Artistocrat
  • Charles Harper, vice president of business development, Double Down Interactive, a division of IGT
  • Melissa Blau, director, iGaming Capital
  • Chris DeWolfe, CEO, SGN