Gambling blockchain ICOs all the rage

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TokenMarket.net has become the go-to website for anyone wanting to keep tabs on the lengthening list of blockchain-based gambling-related initial coin offerings or, in the parlance of the growing crypto community, ICOs.

To recap, ICOs have developed off the back of the enthusiasm for all things cryptocurrency. With the value of Bitcoin having reached an all-time high in recent weeks (at the time of writing barely a few cents below $2,500) and the Ethereum-based Ethercoin also scaling giddy valuation heights, it is no surprise that a market has developed for various other blockchain-based coins and tokens covering an assortment of sectors and ideas.

Gambling startups haven’t been shy in jumping on the bandwagon. The latest one to catch the eye is that of Funfair.io, headed by ex-PKR founder Jez San, which raised $26m in matter of hours after releasing over 17 million tokens just last week.

Funfair.io is a decentralised gaming platform powered by Ethereum smart contracts that says it has developed breakthrough technology that can help solve the challenges posed by bringing blockchain-based casinos to consumers. The games will be powered by the Fun tokens and in comparison to other blockchain-based casinos it says it offers instant gaming, transparent code, lower operating costs and consequently the possibility of higher payouts.

GamCrowd will feature an interview with San next week. But he isn’t alone in thinking it can break the online casino mould. Also currently running an ICO process via TokenMarket is Dao Casino, a similarly Ethereum-based idea which promises a “decentralised casino” which, for developers, promises to make it easier to monetise their work and raise funds and for the gambling consumer says it “allows them to break free from rigged centralised online casinos.”

As is well-known there is a libertarian streak that runs through blockchain like Blackpool runs through a stick of rock. Dao Casino says its protocol “focuses on obtaining pseudo-randomness in all the gaming outcomes by introducing an economic incentive layer.”

The participants interact with PRNG contracts to ensure unpredictable pseudo-randomness. “In the beginning we expect existing licensed online casino operators to integrate with the protocol to reduce costs, while long-term new forms of regulations more suitable for decentralised, transparent and automated systems can emerge.”

It isn’t just in the arena of online casinos that ICOs are threatening to disrupt the current online gambling model. Other ICOs offers currently up and running on TokenMakret include True Flip, which describes itself as an “international anonymous blockchain lottery with instant payouts, open source code, and transparent prize fund.”

Then there HiveMind, a “peer-to-peer Oracle protocol” which absorbs accurate data into a blockchain so that Bitcoin-users can speculate in prediction markets and whose ICO is yet to be announced; Gnosis, another prediction market idea based on the Ethereum blockchain; and PeerPlays which promises provably fair blockchain-based gaming that allows users to design their own specialized tokens or chips, buy or sell gateway tokens for popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ether and then wager these tokens in on-chain games.

Then there is Wagerr which outs the cat among the pigeons when it declares on its website that it has developed a blockchain-based wagering platform which is “free from all regulatory bodies.” To be clear, this isn’t the only blockchain-based betting platform we have heard of or written about – in the same field there is also Augur – but it is to date the only one to have gone to an ICO, raising $10m.

Lastly for now - and most clearly posing an immediate question for regulators – is eSports-only sportsbook Unikrn which is planning to new Unicoin Gold via a TokenMarket in September through which it hopes to raise an unspecified amount. The new coin is based on the already popular Unicoin which Unikrn has been offering to users for two years now and is popular in markets where Unikrn is not regulated for real-money wagering. The new tokens will only initially be accepted on Unikrn’s betting platform

Unikrn is domiciled in the Isle of Man, which is possibly the most crypto-friendly jurisdiction, and the UK, where the Gambling Commission has been to date more wary on cryptocurrency issues. The ICO white paper says the new coin will serve as a “decentralized proxy of value” creating a decentralized, community-driven virtual economy. “That economy will increase in turnover based on our new skill platform, live-betting experience and global expansion of an exclusive token betting eSports platform,” it tells potential investors.

Part of the Unikrn white paper focuses on the issue skin gambling that has to prominence in the last few years. The company has set itself up as a critic of the form and it says it sees the potential for “shady operators will try to take advantage of token sale momentum.”

Considering the potential for bad actors to take advantage of coin offerings, Unikrn says cryptocurrency stakeholders should “think twice before supporting coins that are designed to primarily support skin gambling operators.”

“The lack of transparency, accountability and looming legal threats associated with skin gambling could quickly attach themselves to the currency, undermining credibility, viability and value.”

The gambling industry is understandably very excited about blockchain and the new phenomenon of ICOs as we are going to see well-funded start-ups with disruptive tech launching into the industry. GamCrowd will continue to grow our knowledge about this space. Hence, we have previously issued a report on Blockchain and we spoke about developments at our recent Tech Week event. We have also announced a blockchain meet-up in London next week on 13th July where we will launch the second edition of the report and I would like to invite anyone interested to get in touch and come along.

With any potentially disruptive technology there are always the sceptics and this is no different with blockchain. While I understand the worries that ICOs in particular can look somewhat like a 21st century Ponzi scheme, I still feel there is more opportunity than threat with blockchain in the gambling sector.