Zynga Makes Real-Money Gambling Debut in U.K., Shares Surge

Shares of Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) climbed 13% on Wednesday as investors cheered the launch of two online gambling websites in the U.K.

The maker of “Farmville” and “Words with Friends,” which has been trying to break into the online gambling market, inked a deal with gambling operator Bwin.Party last year to provide real money poker, slots and blackjack.

On Wednesday, it launched two sites that allow players 18 and up to "experience Zynga's first real money games ... powered by bwin.party, one of the largest and most reputable real money gaming operators worldwide,” Zynga said on its official blog late Tuesday.

The sites include ZyngaPlusPoker, which provides players with tournaments with buy-ins “at every level,” and ZyngaPlusCasino, which brings players more than 160 slots games, including the first ever “Farmville” theme slots game and a variety of table games including blackjack, roulette and baccarat.

The San Francisco-based games maker said launching the download and web versions is an “exciting move to bring players the real money games they have been asking us for.” Both will offer real money bonuses and free cash on deposit.

The company, which plans to launch social versions of the real-money casino games for players on Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and mobile in the U.K. throughout 2013, says its long-term vision is to offer players the “next generation of real money games on multiple platforms in regulated markets worldwide."

“This is just the beginning for us,” said Zynga Chief Revenue Officer Barry Cattle.

Zynga’s investors have been betting that online real-money gambling will be adopted in the U.S. as well. The company, which has long offered casino games online like slots and blackjack online in the U.S. using fake digital money, has seen its stock rally 47% since the beginning of this year as U.S. states like Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey adopt legal online gambling bills.

The company is seeking gambling licenses in those states.