What happens in CityVille stays in CityVille—or so social game maker Zynga hopes. The San Francisco company and its rivals have long used social networks to sell virtual goods for real profit. Now Zynga wants to bring Sin City-style wagering to the online masses. “It’s a natural fit,” Chief Executive Officer Mark Pincus said at a conference in February. Gambling on social media sites “is going to be mind-blowing.”
Social gambling, a collision of real-world betting and Internet games, could soon become America’s favorite pastime. In December, the U.S. Justice Department said a 1961 federal law that many scholars believed barred all forms of online gambling applies only to Web-based sports betting. (Online casinos, though, still need a license from any state where they want to operate.) Since then, a half-dozen states, including California, Nevada, and New Jersey, have started considering online gambling legislation.