格里芬可能的确捕捉到了一个巨大的商机。他留着一个美剧《广告狂人》（Mad Men）式的发型，穿着修身西装，看起来就像摩洛哥的赌场管理员。社交游戏公司Zynga对格里芬的点子很感兴趣。自从上市后七个月以来，Zynga一直在积极地寻找新的方法，好从它的数百万玩家身上赚到更多的钱。Zynga首席执行官马克•平卡斯近日在《财富》（Fortune）举办的科技头脑风暴科技峰会（Brainstorm Tech）上对观众表示，公司正在“积极扩展现金赌博等周边市场。”在6月25日的收益电话会议上，Zynga高管公布，公司当季收入为3.32亿美元，净亏损约为2,300万美元，同时再次重申，公司决定发展现金赌博游戏。格里芬表示：“他们认识到，仅仅只是拥有大量用户，还算不上是最好的业务。”
格里芬表示，如果Zynga和电子艺界（Electronic Arts）等游戏公司真的决定进军现金游戏市场，自己希望能助他们一臂之力。格里芬的公司位于英国伦敦，在现金游戏这个仍然有些棘手但有大量盈利潜能的市场上，他的公司已经比后来者领先一年多了。Betable公司创立于2008年，初衷是要成为一家游戏公司，但从去年开始，公司将重点转为向其他公司提供幕后技术，使其他开发商的游戏能够兼容现金游戏模式。Betable的投资人包括创始人基金（Founders Fund）的FF天使基金、格雷洛克发现基金（Greylock Discovery Fund），以及戴夫•莫林和尤里•米尔纳等个人投资者。
Betable CEO Chris Griffin has spent years cultivating what he calls "a new renaissance in gaming." The 30-year-old entrepreneur wants to upend the rapidly growing social gaming market by making it simple for game makers to incorporate old-school, real-money gambling.
If Zynga and competitors such as Electronic Arts (EA) do enter real-money gaming, Griffin wants to facilitate things. His London-based startup has over a year's head start in a potentially lucrative but still thorny market. Founded in 2008 to build gambling games, Betable shifted last year to focus on providing the behind-the-scenes technology that makes other developers' games compatible with real-money wagers. The company is backed by the likes of Founders Fund's FF Angel, Greylock Discovery Fund, and individuals Dave Morin and Yuri Milner.
Betable's founder claims that his company is the only firm to have solved the regulatory puzzles involved. To receive a license, all beneficial owners (with a 1% or larger stake) of a gambling service must undergo a months-long diligence process. Griffin calls it "incredibly invasive" because company officers are checked out, as well as software, security and location of servers, operating policies and procedures. It took Betable over two years and millions of dollars to receive the go-ahead from regulators in the United Kingdom. The company is now moving into private beta after 30 developers completed an alpha test round; its founder is bullish that no other customizable platforms are licensed and in the market.
Griffin hopes that Betable's solution will be adopted as a partner for major game makers. Social game makers who use Betable's tools can legally offer gaming components, such as a slot machine function, within the game, but don't need their own regulatory approval because it's Betable that actually conducts the gambling activity. Betable's U.K. servers receive the activity request from a particular game, whose developers can set rules on what type of mechanic they want to run. Betable then sends back a winning or losing result, taking a portion of the revenue from the transaction and paying back an affiliate fee to the game's owners proportional to volume of traffic. Whereas the process can take months to set up independently, Griffin says a company like Zynga can layer on Betable's solution to its games in just one hour.
In its earnings call, Zynga confirmed that its first real-money games are in development in countries where it can obtain a license. But Pincus declined to specify whether Zynga would pursue its own licenses or obtain their use through a partnership, leaving the door open for a potential Betable deal. If Zynga calls, Griffin will pick up the phone, saying his platform is open to all. In the meantime, Griffin calls Zynga's launch timeline of first-half 2013 "the biggest early holiday gift ever" for Betable's growing community: developers joining Betable today can work knowing they have six months to steal a march on the industry leader.
While at Brainstorm Tech, Zynga's Pincus pointed to his company's poker and bingo offerings as immediate opportunities for integrating real-money gambling, so first Zynga offerings would seem likely to put real-money to work in casino style games. But both Griffin and Pincus seem to agree that the long-term opportunity is broad adoption in mainstream social games. Users of Farmville-like games could, for example, run a slot machine mechanic to bet on a better crop.
But neither country will be involved in real-money games in the United States any time soon. Betable's service operates legally under United Kingdom regulation in countries that do not have their own specific restrictions. Various identity checks ensure that users can't game the system to misrepresent their location and get in on the action. For now, that leaves out a few countries, including the United States. But Griffin is unfazed, noting that of hundreds of developers with whom he's discussed his product, the average game maker told him up to 60% of their business was now outside the U.S. market. Last week, Pincus pointed to the non-U.S. online gambling market as a $15 billion industry.
Legislation to open the United States up to real money gambling would of course be a major boon to both Zynga and Betable, which recently opened a San Francisco office for its developing team. Zynga reported on July 25 that it still depends on the United States for 60% of total revenue, and Pincus said last week that Zynga plans to be a part of any online gambling lobbying conversations in Washington in the future.
In the meantime, Griffin notes that users in non-starter countries may even spend more on virtual goods to keep up with their real-money gambling peers within a game. At the very least, Betable has wagered its regulatory head start will be enough chips to stay at the table.