Zynga Hires Gambling Executive in Real-Money Gaming Push

Zynga Inc. hired Maytal Olsha, a former online-gambling executive, as its chief operating officer of new markets, ahead of the game maker’s plans to offer real-money wagering next year.

Olsha, who was previously a senior vice president at 888 Holdings Plc, will help oversee gambling strategy and development at Zynga, the company said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. She will report to Executive Vice President Barry Cottle.

Zynga is optimistic that the easing of regulations in the U.S. and abroad will let it expand into real-money online gambling, a market that researcher H2 Gambling Capital estimates may be worth $30 billion next year. The company plans to offer a gambling product in international markets in the first half of 2013, Chief Executive Officer Mark Pincus said on a call with analysts earlier this year.

Olsha “joins our team with a deep understanding and direct experience in getting online gaming product offerings off the ground and directly into the hands of players,” Cottle said in a statement.

The hire follows the departures of at least eight managers since early August, as Zynga’s stock decline erodes the value of equity used to compensate employees. Earlier this week, the company disclosed the resignation of Jeff Karp, who was chief marketing officer, in a filing.

Zynga rose 7.4 percent to $3.18 at the New York close, the biggest jump since Sept. 12, when they received a boost in the wake of comments Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg made about the game maker during a public appearance.

“I think that they’re fundamentally a strong company,” Zuckerberg said on Sept. 11.

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