With the global economy in turmoil many sectors are looking for ways to attract sources of revenue. The old saying that gambling is recession proof is widely true especially in light of the growing market of mobile gaming andmobile gambling. There is increasingly very little that separates the two as there are ongoing attempts to monetize social games in any way possible. Major social gaming players like Zynga have already declared their intention to launch a real money online poker offering in the first half of 2013.

This has led to market experts asking other gaming giants like EA if they will join the real money gambling club. At a luncheon with reporters at Bloomberg’s offices in San Francisco, president of EA Labels and company head of gaming developments Frank Gibeau addressed this question. His comments at best were cagy as he kept all options open. He said that technically it would not be a problem for EA to convert their free-to-play online social casino games like Lucky Gem Casino Slots into a real money offering but as he puts it he is not sure if “it’s the right thing to do culturally.”

He went on to say that the issue of entering real money gambling is complex as there is a lot of red tape and regulations in the U.S. and European markets.
Gibeau however was sure to cover all his bases as he was quoted as saying,” I do think real-money will be a growth driver for gaming. I have nothing to announce. We’re following the trends and events in real money. “

This ambiguous response to the simple question of entering the gambling market is exactly what makes it a double edged sword. While the temptation is difficult to resist as billions of dollars are at stake, there is the real chance of you alienating your existing audience who are against gambling as a whole. This was confirmed when Gibeau was asked if people at EA were against real–money gambling on a philosophical level in which he replied yes.

Unlike Zynga EA is not struggling and they have as their primary goal that of providing high-quality gaming experiences for their customers. Gibeau emphasized that EA have built their reputation around entertainment and not real money gambling. However again he added an exit clause by saying,” Culturally, we built our money around entertainment, not necessarily real-money gambling. That’s something that we have to figure out.”

While not ruling out any options his overall thoughts about real-money gambling could be summed up by some closing quotes,” Free-to-play casino game are fun, but once you cross over into taking real money, it’s a bright line that you have to cross with eyes wide open….We don’t need to do this to achieve our goals. If you ask me if it is in my top five, it is not in my top five. We don’t need it to grow our company. Some other companies are betting on it. We are not.”

It is fascinating to see how no serious social online gaming company is prepared to state out right that they have no intentions of entering the real money gambling arena. When it comes down to it the chance to earn hundreds of dollars from a real money gambler compared to a few dollars from a social online gamer makes the option to remain solely free-to-play impossible.

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