Online gambling group bwin.party today revealed plans to invest up to $50 million over the next two years to move into the social games space. The funds will be used to establish a new game studio called “Win,” the development and launch of an unspecified number of new social gambling games and the purchase of assets like business-to-business social gaming contracts and other engineering resources.
Win will be led by former Mytopia CEO Barak Rabinowitz. Alex Usach, previously of Flextronics International and Aricent Group, was tapped to helm the company’s new technology unit dedicated to social game development. Dan Matkowski, formerly a game producer at Electronic Arts, will be bwin.party’s lead game producer. Tilli Kalisky is the company’s new head of publishing after working with social game companies at venture capital firm Greylock Partners. Finally, Dennis Hettema, whose company Hettema & Bergsten developed Aces Hangout for bwin.party on Google+ will be in charge of prototype development.
Social casino games are increasingly popular among Facebook game developers because they tend to have stronger user conversion and retention rates. Land-based casino companies and their suppliers (e.g. Caesar’s Entertainment, IGT and MGM Resorts) are currently jockeying for dominance in the social gambling pond while established social games companies like Zynga continue to release gambling-themed social games. According to our AppData tracking service, the top gambling game on Facebook is Zynga’s Texas HoldEm Poker with 6.9 million daily active users, followed by Zynga Slingo with 3.5 million DAU and then Playtika’s Slotomania – Slot Machines with 2 million DAU. bwin.party’s $50 million investment could prove to be a proverbial ace up the sleeve, as so many studios have bootstrapped themselves to success on far less.
bwin.party was formed by the 2011 merger of bwin and PartyGaming, creating one of the world’s largest online gambling networks, known for titles like bwin,PartyPoker, PartyCasino and Foxy Bingo. Headquartered in Gibraltar, the company has approximately 3,100 employees across Europe, India, Israel and the United States.