DAO Casino wants to use cryptocurrency to disrupt online gambling
Imagine an online gambling ecosystem that is decentralized, meaning that it cuts out the typical middleman between a game-maker or betting operator and the player or bettor. That’s the pitch of Russian company DAO.Casino, a decentralized platform for online gambling operators that runs on
the Ethereum blockchain.
In its white paper on the developer site Github, DAO.Casino
says it can solve common headaches of online gambling that afflict both game developers and game players, such as: fraud risk; hidden fees; high cost of entry for game developers; operational overhead; player access to funds; player withdrawal delays; and general lack of trust. If that sounds like a mouthful, let’s take a step back. In the cryptocurrency world, much of the press and attention right now is around bitcoin, since the price of bitcoin is flying: it’s up 200% in 2017 so far. But the price of a rival cryptocurrency, ether, has seen a bump as well: it’s up 174% in the past month, to $263. Ether is the currency of the Ethereum network, which is a blockchain for smart contracts.
Thereum smart contracts
While bitcoin runs on the bitcoin blockchain, a decentralized, permissionless ledger—and blockchain technology originated with bitcoin in 2009—Ethereum runs on its own blockchain specifically designed for smart contracts. Smart contracts are coded agreements that live in a permanent address on the Ethereum chain. These agreements can interact with other contracts to automatically enact functions. In other words, “smart contracts” is a fancy way of saying “computer programs.” For example: on Ethereum, we could exchange the title deed to a car, directly from seller to buyer. In a recent Cognizant survey of 578 financial service firms, 78% of respondents said their firm is exploring multiple blockchain platforms—of those, 49% listed the bitcoin blockchain, 42% said Ethereum.
While bitcoin is soaring as a speculative investment, there aren’t yet obvious mainstream uses for the currency beyond trading and holding it; many in the industry await the “killer app” for bitcoin. There is arguably more excitement right now around the uses of Ethereum, since it was created specifically for smart contracts (not for the currency, which is just an incentive token for developers). TechCrunch writes that Ethereum is “poised to overhaul open-source development.” And Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin (just 23 years old) met with Vladimir Putin this week, who praised Ethereum.
DAO.Casino and initial coin offering
That brings us to DAO.Casino, one of the many startups that believes it can solve a problem using Ethereum. On June 29, DAO.Casino will launch an ICO (initial coin offering), a popular new way of raising money for cryptocurrency startups in which investors buy up the startup’s own coin and pay for it with a more established coin. Ethereum did its own ICO in 2014, in which investors bought ether using bitcoin. An ICO typically lasts for a month. Think of an ICO as the equivalent of a VC round for cryptocurrency startups. In DAO.Casino’s ICO, it will sell BET, its own token, in exchange for ether.
Just don’t associate DAO.Casino with The DAO, a leaderless, decentralized network that launched in May 2016 (via an ICO that exchanged tokens for ether) as a platform for Ethereum-based projects and was quickly hacked, one month later, to the tune of $50 million. The entire Ethereum blockchain had to perform a split known as a “fork” in order to restore all the funds stolen in The DAO hack.
DAO.Casino is not an actual casino itself, but an open protocol for online gambling companies (like an online casino, blackjack game operator, or sports betting site) to build on. (DAO.Casino will also build its own branded games.) It isn’t aimed at the end user—if an online betting site were to use it, the bettor wouldn’t have to know or see that they’re using a system built on Ethereum. (I could even develop my own gambling site on top of DAO.Casino’s protocol and pay out users in BET tokens, but rename them Dancoins.) The company’s hope is that online betting sites will integrate with its network to offer games without the casino, a middleman that takes a big cut and may not always be trustworthy.