Plumbee announces Sportingbet joint venture

Mirrorball Slots operator partners with egaming operator to launch social casino subsidiary business Bonza Gaming – former Sportingbet mobile chief announced as CEO.

Plumbee has entered into a joint venture (JV) with egaming operator Sportingbet to create a new business designed to explore the “real-money, social-gambling arena.”

The newly-formed Bonza Gaming, headed up by Sportingbet’s former head of mobile Rick Brownlow who takes on the role of CEO, is based in Plumbee’s former offices at London’s Silicon Roundabout. Leading a team of engineers, game artists and product managers – the company currently has 12 employees in total – Bonza will look to exploit opportunities for crossover between the social casino and egaming sectors across multiple platforms.

The company is totally autonomous from both Sportingbet and Plumbee, who instead are equal shareholders in the JV, with Brownlow and his management team in full control of Bonza Gaming’s strategy.

The announcement of Bonza Gaming’s launch comes just 24 hours before Sportingbet’s board is due to vote whether to accept a joint takeover bid from William Hill and GVC Holdings for a revised price of 56.1p a share, valuing the business at £485m (US$785m).

While the company avoids referring to opportunities to develop a real-money offering for the Facebook platform, following last week’s launch of 888’s Bingo Appy game, and Gamesys’ Bingo and Slots Friendzy, which went live in August, this could conceivably be Bonza Gaming’s ultimate goal.

Commenting on the partnership Brownlow described the JV as prompting “the beginning of a new era of gaming.”

“We’re combining the wealth of experience and knowledge of different gaming sectors that Sportingbet and Plumbee bring to explore a new way of gambling online and on mobile,” he said.

Plumbee co-founder and chief executive Raf Keustermans added: “This joint venture is a bold new step for Plumbee and we’re confident that the mix of Sportingbet’s 14 years of operating betting and gaming sites globally and Plumbee’s huge social experience will successfully create and market a product for this new and exciting sector.”

The deal marks the latest stage in Plumbee’s rapid development in the social casino sector. Founded in July 2011 by Keustermans, COO Gerald Tan and CTO Jodi Moran – all former Playfish employees – the company’s flagship app Mirrorball Slots went live in March this year and attracts 1.1m MAU, according to AppData, while revenues are understood to be well over US$1m each month.

Sportingbet CEO Andy McIver described the deal as “a hugely exciting venture for Sportingbet,” revealing that the operator had spent the past year working out the best strategy to enter the sector before deciding to partner with a “best-in-class” social games studio, describing Plumbee as “the perfect fit.”

The decision to build a separate entity in order to develop operations in the space, he added, was in order to create a team solely dedicated to the social sector rather than dedicate in-house resources to the project.

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