Today, Friday, October 4, 2013, a new poker movie hits theaters. It’s called “Runner Runner” and it stars Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake as opposite sides of a dispute about one man’s (Justin Timberlakes) loss of a great sum of money to an online poker site.
Calling it a thriller that set against a backdrop of online poker (actually it’s set in Costa Rica, although more of the film was shot in Puerto Rico) the movie is the most recent from the team of writers/producers Brian Koppleman and David Levien. The movie follows a ruthless offshore online poker site operator played by Affleck, lending to rumors that the film will shed a bad light on online poker and hurt the industry’s efforts to legalize in more states and then the whole U.S.. The producers’ answer to that is to look at the 1998 film “Rounders” (which was written, incidentally by the same dynamic duo) that rallied that same complaints, yet only served to bolster the game of real money high stakes poker, if anything. The writers/producers also swear that they were already working on the film before the 2011 Black Friday debacle hitting sites like Absolute Poker and Ultimate Poker took place, with those events merely serving as validation that they indeed had themselves an urgent and relevant story worth telling.
Zynga is the most popular maker of games of Facebook, starting with the viral craze Farmville (soon to be a major motion picture???) and extending to Zynga Bingo and – yes – Zynga Poker. In certain games that Zynga offers, players may pay money for certain assets or extra features, but no real money gambling takes place on any of these games. At least not yet.
It seems the publicly traded San Francisco based Zynga is now looking into getting into the real money poker game, putting all the major players in that already saturated field on alert. Because if there’s one untapped market for what real money online poker sites are offering, Zynga has it tapped. Zynga Poker currently boasts over 30 million players per month.
Zynga has been contemplating a move from play money to real money poker for a year now, but has only recently been able to consider it so seriously, as the DOJ recently reversed its interpretation of the 1961 Interstate Wire Act to open the way for the possbility of intrastate online gambling (that is online gambling taking place entirely within a state’s own borders, from server to end-user).
Zynga, which recently hosted a live poker tourney in Las Vegas, Nevada, seems to have its best chance of setting up its first intrastate real money online poker shop in that state, as it has already made such activity legal and is beginning to form a licensing infrastructure. Launching a branch in neighboring California, however, looks to be an uphill climb for Zynga as the legislature is still deeply divided on this issue.