Exclusive: Maytal Ginsburg Olsha becomes Zynga’s real-money chief

Former 888 executive will oversee social giant’s online gambling launch, first announced in July this year – first products to launch in Q1 2013.

888’s former senior vice president of corporate and regulated markets has left the company to head up Zynga’s real-money gambling project, Social Casino Intelligence can exclusively reveal.

Ginsburg Olsha, who left the egaming operator in June this year, takes on the role of COO – New Markets for the social gaming giant, which first confirmed its plans to enter the gambling sector in July.

At the time Zynga chief executive Mark Pincus told analysts: “We are developing a new growth opportunity in real-money gambling to build on our strong casino presence with Zynga Poker – the world’s largest free play poker game – and our hit bingo and slots games.”

However, he was unwilling to elaborate on how the company would do so, other than confirming that it was likely to launch a licensed European offering: “We’re not making more public announcements about how we’ll enter these markets today, but it is subject to us having a licence,” Pincus explained.

SCi’s sister title eGaming Review first broke news of Zynga’s plans to launch a cash gaming offering in July this year when it revealed that the company was among those bidding for the bwin.party-owned Ongame poker network, though it is unclear whether its interest is ongoing.

This was followed by SCi’s revelation that Zynga had opened a tender process for a real-money poker platform, with Playtech and GTECH G2 known to be among those vying for the contract. Again, it remains unclear whether a service provider has been selected.

After joining 888 as vice president of customer acquisition in 2007, Ginsburg Olsha was promoted to VP of poker and corporate customer acquisition in 2009, before holding her final role within the company, as senior vice president of corporate and regulated markets, from April 2011 to June this year.

The appointment coincides with a difficult period in Zynga’s existence following its initial public offering in December last year. The firm posted a loss of US$108.2m for the first half of 2012, blamed on declining player numbers and delays in the launch of new games.

This slump has been exacerbated by changes to Facebook’s feeds and requests algorithms, which are now thought to favour new launches. However, since the launch of The Ville in July, the operator has seen little improvement in user numbers.

In the past month a number of management staff have left the business, including several studio managers, but most notably COO John Schappert and chief creative officer Mike Verdu.

Both departures have been described as “amicable” in official releases, with Zynga even investing in Verdu’s new games studio. However, Schappert’s departure came just over a week after having his core responsibilities taken over by Pincus.

The news of Ginzburg Olsha’s appointment has been confirmed by a source close to the matter.

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