Zynga's plans to enter online gambling spurs a bi-polar reaction for me. The capitalist in me drools over the potential business model, but the do-gooder worried about gambling addiction sees an epic societal train wreck ahead.
AllThingsD has a big overview of Zynga's plans to enter online gambling. There are a bunch of caveats such as Zynga has to navigate regulators, but it's highly likely that Zynga Poker will be played with real money at some point.
From a business perspective, Zynga's gambling exploration is absolutely brilliant. We all know the house always wins with casinos. Zynga becomes a casino---on an addictive platform like Facebook no less---and cash will be raining from the skies. Online gambling changes everything for Zynga from a business model perspective. Today, Zynga needs a stream of gaming hits. It can stumble just like a Hollywood studio that hits a dry spell.
Gambling changes all of that. Gambling is commerce and folks will be handing over cash to Zynga and Facebook with abandon. This Zynga meets gambling model is a capitalist dream. Zynga can and should pursue online gambling.
Once I'm done counting virtual cash though, the dangers become apparent. Gamblers' Anonymous will freak. Zynga and gambling will be like crack to those who can't control the urge to wager. Combine the addictive nature of Facebook and you have a double whammy.
Let's face it. People leave their kids in the car in the heat and cold to go into a casino. People go into debt to gamble. People are already hooked on online gambling. The barriers to entry fade away in a Zynga-Facebook environment. Now not everyone is addicted to gambling, but for those who are Zynga's online gambling adventure is going to be scary. Am I being an alarmist? Perhaps. But I usually always skew to the capitalist pig side of any equation. My gut tells me this Zynga gambling effort could have some major societal repercussions.