Zynga announced today a partnership with bwin.party to bring online gaming, including online poker, to its UK customers in the first half of 2013.
The PartyGaming poker network consists of the primary PartyPoker brand, and smaller poker “skins” including WPTPoker and EmpirePoker.com.
Under the deal announced today, Zynga players in the UK will be offered real money gaming on the same network, sharing the same dot.com player pool. PartyPoker is currently the second largest pool of players internationally.
Zynga will also launch real money casino games and a slots game branded by FarmVille, its famous social network game.
The social gaming giant has been flirting with the idea of real-money gaming for a while, although its intentions have been questioned. It was reportedly interested in both the Full Tilt and Ongame sale—a bwin.party asset—although no acquisitions came to fruition.
The company has had a tough time this year, with falling numbers in its socials games.
Leading up to its quarterly earnings report, Zynga announced cost cutting measures that included a reduction in force of about 5% of its employees. Those cuts and other consolidations are expected to save the company $15-$20m in the fourth quarter.
Zynga also announced a share repurchase program that authorizes its Board of Directors to reclaim up to $200m in the company’s outstanding common stock.
bwin.party itself has had a tough time in 2012. Despite retaining its second place spot, it has seen a 33% decline in cash game traffic year on year, significantly outpacing the industry average, and has seen share price drops following consolidation of its primary competitors.