With the agreement of Shuffle Master to purchase the Ongame Network falling through last week, the new kid on the block set to acquire the popular network is Facebook’s Zynga.
As first reported by eGaming Review, Zynga is in the forefront of five companies who are lining up to make offers to the network’s owner, Bwin.party, who views its holding of the network as a “surplus asset.” Zynga reportedly visited Ongame’s Swedish headquarters last week and made a verbal offer to acquire Ongame, which is ranked fifth in worldwide player traffic by PokerScout. The other four companies interested in the acquisition have not been made public as of this writing.
Zynga is a wildly popular free-play social gaming site that is evidently gearing up for entry into the real money online poker marketplace. Rumors have circulated that the company has been in negotiations with Wynn Resorts International regarding a partnership aimed at capitalizing on Internet poker legalization in the U.S. Nevada is poised to offer intrastate poker later this year or in early 2013.
Zynga Poker launched in 2007 and has amassed 30 million active monthly players throughout the world. It has proven that many people enjoy playing poker for fun and an assortment of other free-play sites have been launched in its wake due to Zynga’s popularity and success. If only a small fraction of its free-play users would convert to consistent real money play, the profit potential could be enormous.
Shuffle Master had previously agreed to purchase Ongame in early March, but backed out of the deal, saying, “Business conditions in Europe have deteriorated since February and as a result, it has become evident to us that Ongame’s operations post-acquisition will not achieve the near-term results we initially expected and will require a larger ongoing investment than anticipated.”
The Ongame Network includes popular poker skins such as Betfair, RedKings and Betsson. Should Zynga manage to acquire the network, its presence in the European market would be felt immediately. Additional partnerships with established casino companies in the U.S. in advance of online poker legislation could possibly position Zynga to compete with PokerStars in the online poker marketplace, which would be good for the entire industry.