On Friday, Caesars Interactive Entertainment and Electronic Arts announced the launch of their World Series of Poker-branded app for Facebook. The WSOP app follows the release last year of a play-for-fun mobile app for players on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets.
Frankly, this isn't that big of a deal, as lots of online gaming branded websites have already integrated technologies like mobile and social media platforms.
What is a big deal is the fact that it represents a bid by one of the world's biggest and most iconic brick and mortar casinos to get in on a future legal U.S. online gambling market - and that represents a giant shift in perspective.
U.S. online gambling legislation has traveled a bumpy road and, of course, there's still a ways to go. Despite this, the online casino industry has long believed that the legal web betting in the U.S.
was just a matter of time.
Land casinos, on the other hand, have been less optimistic, and due perhaps to their longstanding power position as the rulers of the betting world, less approving. But the world is changing, and along with it, the nature of betting.
The concept of legal web gambling is gaining traction not just within the online gambling world, but outside of it as well. So much so in fact, that even Hollywood is getting in on the game. Point in case, a recent episode of House of Lies, the Showtime cable network's hit series
starring Don Cheadle and Kristin Bell.
House of Lies follows four – and more recently, five - unscrupulous management consultants and their exploits with their wacky clients. In the first of what will become a series-long story arc, the “pod,” as the team is known, travels to Vegas and attempts to convince the owner of an outdated and ailing land casino to embrace a social media initiative in order to turn his business around.
Prior to the pitch, the pod meets to discuss its options. It goes something like this:
Tamara proposes a “full-scale pay model social gambling app that integrates into social media.”
Clyde confirms the plan's brilliance, noting that the casino owner, “could rebrand the physical casino and bring in a whole new revenue stream.”
Jeannie highlights a problem, saying that “the one thing that model doesn't consider is the fact that it is illegal for money to change money in cyber space.”
Tamara: “It is now but I expect that to change.”
Jeannie: “It won't.”
To and fro cat-fight-esque argument ensues.
Tamara closes with “It will because politicos won't be able to resist potential tax revenues,” then adds that her friend in Washington, the Deputy Attorney General, says that legal online gambling legislation is a “done deal.”
The dialogue hits on what the online gambling industry has been saying for years. In short, it's all about the Benjamins.
A couple of scenes later – and after several missteps – the pod's fearless leader, Cheadle's Marty Khan, pitches its idea to the casino owner.
Marty proposes that acquiring a technology that melds a top casino brand with social media is the new frontier and will yield enormous revenues.
Tamara backs him up with “20 million users are playing slot-o-mania.”
We won't tell you the pitch's outcome, but we will say that the scene perfectly illustrates the distinction between the old and the new guard in gambling – the technology-embracing future leaders and the dinosaurs who will, we expect, be left in their dust.
The Caesars Interactive WSOP-branded app for Facebook is one of what we expect will soon be a tsunami of online gambling apps that partner brick and mortar casinos with social media.
“World Series of Poker for Facebook features the classic elements of the WSOP franchise with numerous virtual prizes, a wealth of poker statistics and live chat capabilities,” said Caesars in a statement.
As to when those virtual prizes will become actual cash, that's up to the politicos. But as the House of Lies episode astutely points out, the potential taxes online gambling revenues will generate are impossible to resist.