Online gambling in the US: it’s pretty much inevitable

Hear that whooshing sound? It’s the sound of something rushing in to fill a vacuum – except that the “something” in this case is social and mobile gaming companies, and the vacuum is the market for real money gambling games in the Unites States.

If you’re a casual gamer (and you probably are if you’re reading Gamezebo), you may have already seen how the companies that make some of your favorite games are preparing to offer you casino and poker games played for real money when it becomes legal. Zynga is the biggest name, as it’s made little secret that it sees a future for itself in mobile gambling. Others like Glu Mobile are in the process of testing the waters overseas in order to be ready as soon as possible when the U.S. gives them the green light.

And make no mistake about it, online and mobile gambling are on the way. Within the past month, both Nevada and New Jersey passed bills to join Delaware in formally legalizing intrastate real money gaming. Other states are sure to follow to avoid being left out, similar to the way physical casinos have popped up in more and more places that got tired of seeing gambling dollars travel elsewhere.

That’s if the federal government doesn’t act first. There are renewed efforts underway for legislating things at the national level, this time supported by the casino companies that opposed such measures in the past. They’ve seen that the future of gambling, like so many things, is mobile, and they want to make sure they’re a part of it.

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But while internet-based gambling has existed in a murky legal status in the United States for some time, it’s been a flourishing industry in other countries since the late 1990s. Some of those casino software providers, like 888 Holdings, are also eyeing up an American market that analysts think could be as large as $10 billion by 2017. Their existing expertise in creating online and mobile casino games will be a valuable asset.

What’s shaping up is an intriguing three-way battle to win the hearts, minds and (especially) dollars of players, and it’s not clear who will come out on top. Will it be the social gaming companies with their knowledge of viral behavior? Will the existing online casino providers dominate since they already understand the space? Or could the physical casino conglomerates rule with their ability to tie online games into experiences at their resorts?

It could even be a combination of those forces, since some of the businesses have already partnered up to increase their chances of success. The place to watch is New Jersey, which is expected to be the first state to actually have games up and running, perhaps as soon as this summer. It’s going to be a wild time until everything shakes out.

In the meantime, drop us a comment and let us know how you feel about gambling on your computer or mobile device, and whether you’d make the move from playing slots or casino games for fun to trying your luck with real money at stake.

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