Zynga surges on U.K. gambling bet

  @AlannaPetroff April 3, 2013: 2:11 PM ET
zynga plus poker

Zynga is now offering real money online poker in the United Kingdom. Investors are hoping this will come to the U.S. soon too.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Shares of Zynga were up more than 15% on Wednesday after the company announced that it had just begun offering real-money online gambling in the United Kingdom.

Zynga (ZNGA), which is mostly known for its popular FarmVille game, has soared roughly 50% this year based on expectations that it would move more aggressively into the lucrative online gambling market.

The new ZyngaPlusPoker and ZyngaPlusCasino games are being offered in partnership with London-listed bwin.party, one of the U.K.'s market leaders in online gambling. Players will have access to various poker, slot machine and table games such as Blackjack and Roulette. One of the slot machine games will, unsurprisingly, have a FarmVille theme.

Online gambling is legal in many places around the world, but it is mostly banned in the United States. But investors are optimistic that an opportunity for real-money gaming may soon be possible in the U.S.

"Our long term vision is to offer our players the next generation of real money games on multiple platforms in regulated markets worldwide," said Zynga's chief revenue officer, Barry Cottle in a blog post.

Related: Online gambling deals boost Zynga, Glu

The gaming industry has been lobbying Congress to relax online gambling bans, arguing that games like poker are based on skill rather than chance. Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware have all recently legalized some forms of online gambling.

Zynga goes all-in with online poker

While Zynga has built its brand on Facebook (FB) games like FarmVille, the popularity of those titles has recently been waning. The company has shuttered over a dozen titles since October.

Even though Zynga has been hot this year, its current price of about $3.50 is still 65% below its initial offering price of $10. Zynga went public in December 2011. Shares are nearly 80% below the all-time high they hit in March of 2012.

--CNNMoney's Julianne Pepitone contributed to this article

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