Gentlemen, place your engines! I mean…start your bets! You get the point.

In the pantheon of ideas whose time has come, a social sports betting game ranks pretty high. Now it’s a reality in the form of the simply named Sports Casino by RocketPlay, a company made up of social gaming and gambling industry veterans. Available on both Facebook and Zynga.com as part of Zynga’s initiative to publish games from other developers, it’s got the potential to draw in people who wouldn’t ordinarily touch social games.

Sports Casino

There are no prizes for figuring out what Sports Casino is all about. The heart of the game is its virtual sportsbook, which allows you to place play money wagers on real life sporting events. Think about that for a second, let it sink in and then think about the guy we all know who talks about betting lines and over/under wagers all the time. That guy is the target audience for this game.

As a new player, you’ll be given a bankroll of $1,000 to start making bets on MLB, NFL and Premier League soccer games. The bets you can make as a newbie tend to be fairly basic, like money line bets on which team will win along with wagers on the point spread and total amount of points scored. Every bet placed and winning bet gives you experience points, and advancing to higher levels unlocks a n ever increasing variety of proposition bets.

The game’s real cleverness comes in the way it allows constantly updated betting action during live games. It’s something that is increasingly popular in brick and mortar sportsbooks and handled in excellent fashion here. Want to bet on which team is going to score first in the eighth inning of a baseball game in progress? You can do that, giving an element of instant gratification to the whole process.

Sports Casino

Social features are also baked into the design of Sports Casino. When you are looking over the bets for a particular game, you can see every other player who is doing the same thing at the bottom of the screen. Instant notifications fly up when one of them makes a wager so you can see where the action is. A chat window allows you to talk to other bettors too, and there’s little doubt the trash talk will be flying once the game picks up more users.

Friends can be added for gifting purposes, though there seems to be a lot of untapped potential for leaderboards and hierarchy. Sports Casino awards achievements for various situations like placing your first bet on a particular sport and going on winning streaks, and they actually serve a purpose, unlocking even more tiers of prop bets. You can cut right to the chase by spending Gold, the game’s premium currency, which can be purchased for real money just like the fake dollars can.

We haven’t discussed the second word in the title yet, but other casino games are playable too. Blackjack, slots and video poker are accessible from the lobby or as side games in the sports betting screens They clearly aren’t the focus here, as they are bare bones compared to the versions in most casino sims, and will most likely deplete your sports betting bankroll. But hey, truth in advertising, right?

Sports Casino

The presentation aspect of the game could also be a little glitzier. There’s nothing wrong with the backdrop of a generic Vegas sportsbook, and the interface is clean and easy to read. It’s just that absent the color of sports team logos – understandably, the sports leagues haven’t yet given their blessings – the overall experience is calling out for a little more visual pizzazz. You’ll also stumble upon a few other wrinkles that need to be ironed out, like the strange lines for pitchers found in the live box scores.

Those bugs are small, though, and don’t stop Sports Casino from having the potential to be a home run, touchdown, or any other sports cliché you’d like to use. The cynical view is that it’s just a game getting ready to soften people up for real money sports betting online, but there are more obstacles to that happening than there are for other forms of gambling. This is a fun game even with fake money, and the guys that used to wince every time a FarmVille notification popped up in their feeds just might find it becoming their new obsession.