"Would you like to bet on what may be the next big thing in games?" asks Ingrid Lunden at TechCrunch. "Place a wager on real-money gambling, and you could be in for some good returns." Apple for the first time will begin selling a real-money gambling app called Big Fish Casino, which allows users to play slots "with the swipe of an index finger," says Douglas MacMillan at Bloomberg. Apps for poker, blackjack, and roulette are expected to follow, but iPhone users in the U.S. are missing out — the app is only available in the U.K., thanks to America's strict online gambling laws. Here, a guide to the next big thing in social gaming:
Americans can't gamble on their phones?
Not really. Smartphone users can currently gamble with virtual currency, but that means they can't cash out their winnings. While British users can currently bet on horse racing, Big Fish Casino will for the first time give them the opportunity to bet real money on slots and other casino games.
Is real-money gambling expected to be popular?
Yes. Analysts estimate that globally smartphone and tablet users will "wager $100 billion annually on the devices by 2017," says MacMillan. The average gambling gamer represents $1,800 in profits for a gaming company over the course of a lifetime, while a casual social gamer only offers $2. Furthermore, app makers like Big Fish hope to harness social media to create gambling communities and virtual casinos that could bolster profits.
Does Apple get a cut?
No. "Apple wants to keep arms' length from this," says Big Fish CEO Paul Thelen. "They don't want to be the middleman in a gambling operation."
Will America relax its online gambling laws?
Perhaps. States like California, Nevada, and New Jersey — eager to boost tax revenue from gambling — are reportedly considering passing laws to legalize real-money online gambling. And if the phenomenon "takes off overseas," says Christina Chaey at Fast Company, "there may be enough impetus for gaming companies to spearhead changes." Game maker Zynga recently launched a lobbying blitz in Washington, D.C., and California to do just that.