ESI Gambling Report: The state of cryptocurrency in esports

Cryptocurrency has infiltrated esports in full swing, how will its arrival shape the future of betting?

Over the past year, cryptocurrencies of all shapes, names and sizes have been associating themselves with esports and setting their sights on this wide-ranging and emerging industry.  It’s no mean feat to have a full handle on them, and moreover, it’s a battle to understand which are worth a second look, or have ‘honourable’ intentions. 

An increasing number of companies too are looking to focus on one potentially lucrative segment of this market; esports betting. It is this area which this edition of the ESI Gambling Report will be taking a closer look at. 

Bridging the gap

The one which has been around longest and generated the most noise is undoubtedly UnikoinGold. Born out of the Unikrn platform’s virtual currency Unikoins, after launching the ICO, UnikoinGold raised $31.4m. Celebrity investors including Mark Cuban helped to ensure it was, and continues to be, talked about in both the mainstream press, as well as more niche sites across the betting, esports and cryptocurrency worlds.

Although cryptocurrency and esports betting have flourished separately until now, the bridge being built between the two, in hindsight, would have at least appeared to be on the horizon. 

Rahul Sood, Unikrn

Whilst cryptocurrency and esports are sizable markets, they are both somewhat of a niche, combining the two into one operation though, may be more fitting than what is estimated: both crypto and esports share a likeness that gives the merging communities a glossy finish likely to aide in it’s execution.

Due to what is believed to be an overlap in demographic, CEO & Co-founder of Unikrn, Rahul Sood, elaborated for us: “Crypto is hard, it’s hard to get – it’s hard to acquire, learn, use, etc.  We polled our audience months before going down this path and asked them about whether they understood Bitcoin, wallets, etc.  We were surprised to learn that 70% of our customers either had wallets or were interested in crypto. The bottom line is our customers are younger and love technology – I guess being at the cutting edge of crypto and esports is a great place to be right now!”

Lyubomira Petrova, UltraPlay

Speaking to Esports Insider, Lyubomira Petrova, Communications and Marketing Manager at UltraPlay noted: “Both eSports punters and crypto users are young and tech-savvy with a passion for innovative concepts and disruptive solutions that can ease their daily lives.” 

UltraPlay launched their own esports betting focused cyptocurrency, eGold, in 2017. 

Blockchain enhances the betting ecosystem?

With all the promises and controversy surrounding esports coins, there is one ingredient that stands out in steering token gambling towards a presidential state, Blockchain. Essentially an ecosystem for cryptocurrency transactions, this advanced software maintains a clear and concise history of all crypto interactions in a lightning-fast, public, and accurate manner.

Petrova went into more detail with us regarding Blockchain’s advantages: “If we should outline the two most significant advantages Blockchain technology provides to the eSports betting, that could be the higher speed of transactions – both deposits and withdrawals, as well as the lower costs – lower execution risk, fewer intermediaries, better client retention, etc.

“The numerous advantages the innovative technology is offering to the industry in general open new perspectives of how it can be implemented effectively to reach the next level of gaming excitement players can experience online.”

With an automated system such as Blockchain, there’s no need for a middle-man, slashing transactions fees into a small fraction of what they currently are. In this esports coin betting platform, its robustness doesn’t come from the coin itself, but rather the facilitator.

The lowdown: UnikoinGold, eGold and Luckbox

Research yielded a surprising number of existing esports tokens and platforms available with similar ambitions. While a few more common crypto coins topped search results before others, I set out to discover which esports betting focused coins were the most viable and why.

I discussed with UltraPlay’s Petrova on who she believed to be the current leaders in the space and how they differed:

“The project’s success mostly depends on the execution and usage that the cryptocurrency have. There are so many factors that can distinguish a project, and all of them play a vital role to the end-result. For example, tokens created by an organization with working products and well-established business are considered to be well-structured and planned so to solve real problems, offer better user-experience and upgrade the sector by the cutting-edge technology in general… Each project has its own strengths and only time can show which one will stay and develop in this fast-paced Blockchain ecosystem.”

We give an outline of three of the big esports betting focused cryptocurrencies here:-

Unikrn

A study of esports crypto coins would be incomplete without mentioning Unikrn; a one-stop-shop for all esports related content from tournaments to betting and more which Sood describes as “the Disneyland of esports”.

Unikrn offers two types of virtual currency – UnikoinGold and UnikoinSilver – that aim to connect fans with esports, jackpots, and betting. UnikoinSiver is a free option that is earned through trading skins, virtual items and participating in jackpots to win virtual and physical goods. UnikoinGold (UKG) is Unikrn’s premier esports coin, utilising the Blockchain ecosystem to enhance the nature of its overall operations. Unikrn closed its initial ICO of UKG at a whopping $31.4 million, roughly $15 million of which came from high-profile investor and Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban. To couple UKG’s already impressive success, the crypto coin was added to Bittrex, “the fastest and most secure digital currency trading platform in the world”.

“Remember, Unikrn isn’t just a betting company, we are a community first, global esports company built on cutting edge blockchain and gaming technologies.  We make esports fun, we exist to heighten the experience of watching or participating in esports.”

Ultraplay & eGold

Ultraplay is another betting platform with a brighter than average outlook in the emerging esports betting coin market. The Bulgarian based organisation offers odds on a number of esports titles including those less prominent in bookmakers rotations such as FIFA and Halo, piquing a significant interest.

Petrova noted: “eGold is an Ethereum based token, which uses the strengths of the Ethereum Blockchain. Of course, technology is constantly upgrading with the core ambition to remove some issues within. The team behind is also crucial for the project’s development. With UltraPlay’s team of carefully selected professionals with extensive experience in the eSports, gambling and blockchain spheres, eGold has a solid ground for further improvement.”

Luckbox

Esports betting platform and Ethereum based-coin, Luckbox (LCK), recently closed its ICO at the beginning of March. Luckbox differentiate themselves in what is described as a dual token structure, allowing investors to parade in the company’s success with the option to hold a ‘profit share’ token. Luckbox gathered some attention when the company inked a deal with Paul “Redeye” Chaloner, esteemed esports personality and Co-Founder of Code Red Esports, as an advisor and brand ambassador. The service will be fully regulated and in-line with all laws surrounding the gaming jurisdictions where it will operate, and it is currently in the process of obtaining an Isle of Man licence.

Is that all?

Apart from the above three that are primarily esports betting focused and have been and will likely continue to be the subject of ample discussion across these industries, there exists a number of other esports coins currently floating around in the mix. While the aforementioned coins are primarily the ones to keep an eye on, there are a few worth mentioning:

Herosphere’s Herocoin – another Ethereum based token – is certainly worth including in this conversation: one of the initial front-runners in the esports token race, Herocoin boasts a high ICO Benchscore and has gathered a notable amount of press attention thanks to a cool $2,021,034 (£1,450,475) collected in their initial ICO. Herosphere is a peer-to-peer betting platform utilising Blockchain and boasting similar benefits we see in other esports tokens with some added incentives. Although vanquishing transaction fees, the ‘HERO smart contract’ takes 1% of all contest prize pools and disperses that amount among Herocoin holders, reinvesting that cryptocurrency back into the community rather than a middle-man. “The more HERO a user is holding, the higher share percentage from that 1% he or she receives.” This compounding effect as well at the site’s transparency values are likely to be a driver towards bettors seeking to acquire more Herocoin.  

Herocoin

The Skrilla token (SKR) is also continuing to make steady progress, promoting and fine-tuning the coin as the core medium of exchange for their fantasy esports platform. A bit of firepower for Skrilla comes in the form of its collaborators: leading technology firms Puntaa and GAMURS Group. The global esports titan GAMURS Group is additionally the parent company of DOT Esports – a key and well established esports news publisher – presumably offering Skrilla some pretty lofty benefits along its journey. Skrilla recently announced its launch into Canada offering the region entry into their free-to-play contests to win SKR tokens. Skrilla coupled this announcement in the same report stating that their United States pay-to-play contests would be online in the upcoming weeks. A newsworthy declaration certainly worth keeping an eye peeled for.

Firstblood

FirstBlood is a bit of a different story, but nonetheless, one to keep on your radar: the decentralized esports application allows users to play against one another wagering points and competing in tournaments for humble-sized prize pools (around the £35 mark). FirstBlood was most notably able to accumulate $5.5 million (£3,934,755) worth of Ether in their initial crowdsale of “1SŦ” tokens, in a matter of minutes. The speedy crowdsale cap was certainly eye-catching, however, the whitepaper openly details some potential weaknesses in FirstBlood’s structure; mining attacks, hacking attempts and lack of adoption all pose a threat to FirstBlood’s core infrastructure. You can read a bit more about it here.

Esports Gold (ESG) and Esports.com’s Esports Reward Token (ERT) are two more relevant names to bring up here; both platforms utilize their own token based system via the Blockchain system, while augmenting the traditional bookmaker role into something more for fans. Esports Gold has designs of being a hub for esports – in the form of bringing together news, content, streams, fantasy leagues and more. The aspiring licensed betting operator will look to serve those hungry for content as well as bettors keen on wagering, conjoining both sectors with the ESG token. Another reason to consider investing into Esports Gold? ESG holders will acquire a share of annual betting revenues collected by the platform, allowing for a cash dividend based on the betting turnover.

Crowdfunding around $5.8 million (£4,160,340) in its ICO, Esports.com strives to be different by building a platform in which users can earn & spend coins via coaching, streaming and creating content. Certainly a unique concept, users will power the momentum of Esports.com by supplying the bulk of its content to be disseminated across its users. Speculation would assume this design would grant the platform some economic and self-sufficiency content-wise – if, they have the user capital. 

Play2Live is another with aspirations in offering esports betting in some form, its token sale recently ended after hitting an apparent market cap of $30m (£21.4m).

Real-money vs token gambling

Token gambling is seemingly geared towards regions where real-money gambling is restricted; but with an illustrious legal market available to other select countries, is there enough of an incentive to use crypto tokens in these locations?

UltraPlay’s Petrova told ESI: “Starting eGold almost a year ago, we have outlined the four major traits of our eSports betting cryptocurrency. Lowering uncertainty, increasing transparency, boosting security by smart contracts and providing the fastest payment operations – those are the four guiding points that lead eGold towards new business opportunities, partnerships, and communities. Soon after the introduction of eGold, we saw the great interest towards the project from all over the world – both gambling regulated and emerging markets. Our aim is to unite gamers worldwide and share knowledge on the betting and crypto ecosystem available from our experience.”

During the emergence of this platform, we’ll have a better idea what percentage of those real-money bettors will opt for its crypto wagering adaptation. As Petrova puts it, cryptocurrency gambling offers a bounty of desirable traits overall enhancing the user’s experience.

In short, esports coins seem to be looking to manifest themselves as a way to enhance the overall esports betting experience while providing an outlet for restricted regions to participate in the action. What the regulators will have to say about this is another matter, and this will inevitably come to a head. You can read the UKGC’s initial discussion paper on ‘Virtual currencies, eSports and social gaming’ here.

Regardless of this situation, a high emphasis should be put on the incorporation of Blockchain into the esports betting ecosystem; the financial crypto system could well be the driver in reaching new altitudes with the digital currencies and esports.

What happens next with esports betting focused cryptocurrencies is certainly up in the air, and this piece has, in truth, just barely scratched the surface. We’ll keep a close eye on this area going forward, and will report further on any major updates!