Crypto Gambling During Lockdown: Is a Virtual World the Answer?

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Imagine a world within a world: streets, seas, mountains, cities: oh so familiar yet beguiling and magical. This is the vision of Decentraland (DCL), a “metaverse” built on the blockchain where users can buy up virtual land, construct virtual houses, set up businesses, and create revenue streams by selling to other users. 

MANA From Decentralized Heaven

A crypto-centric, decentralized version of Second Life, Decentraland is the first virtual habitat owned entirely by its users, with land divided into parcels that can be purchased using an ERC20 crypto-token, MANA. In addition to burning MANA in exchange for LAND, users are able to trade tokens with others in exchange for goods and services hosted within Decentraland. Wearables and accessories. Collectibles. Estates. Names. Even crypto betting parlors. The possibilities are endless.

It is early days for Decentraland, which raised $25 million in a 2017 ICO and teamed up with Samsung earlier this year. But if the Ethereum-powered metaverse continues on its upward trajectory, it is easy to imagine a thriving economy at its heart. Particularly since non-fungible token (NFT) sales recently reached an all-time high of $100m globally. Digital art, collectible items in video games, and digital tracts of land have all been tokenized using NFTs, which could grow to be worth trillions of dollars according to Polynexus Capital Partner Andrew Steinwold. 

Decentraland is the most ambitious world-on-a-blockchain project in existence, with users encouraged to link a digital wallet to their avatar and store their various names, collectibles and MANA, assets which can be bought and sold just like any property owned in the real world. MANA is a top 100 cryptocurrency by market cap, with 24-hour trading volume exceeding $100 million and a market cap of $135m. At present, a single token costs around 10 cents.

Casinos Built for the Post-Covid World

Because it is entirely decentralized, the world of Decentraland will exist in perpetuity: it cannot be shut down. 90,000 units of land are distributed on a 300×300 grid and virtual conferences have already been hosted in Crypto Valley, a virtual business district where blockchain projects and funds drop in and out to innovate and communicate. Elsewhere, there are department stores and skyscrapers and even a casino, where intrepid gamblers can shoot dice, play the slots or even purchase plots within the building, to host their own games. 

The casino, which occupies 52 LAND parcels at the coordinates [-120, 135] is part of Decentraland’s very own Casino Quarter known as Vegas City. Prime real estate in Vegas City can be leased by interested developers, with the district divided into the Casino Quarter, the Entertainment Quarter, the Sports Quarter, and the Experience Quarter.

“Each quarter presents a different context for gaming, from the out and out glitz of the Casino Quarter, to sophisticated gaming rooms with Las Vegas-style stage shows in the Entertainment Quarter.”

2020 has been an interesting year, with stay-at-home orders forcing many of us to hunker down and go about our daily lives from within our four walls. It is too early to tell how lockdown will affect long-term player behavior, but with the pandemic having caused numerous land-based businesses (including brick-and-mortar casinos) to flounder, the prospect of a monetized virtual world is undeniably appealing. Building a thriving business, whether a casino or anything else, is likely to be far cheaper than doing so in the real world: even a deadly pandemic won’t stop this particular world from functioning.

The Growth of Online Gambling

In 2017, the global online gambling industry was worth around $47 billion. By 2026, it is forecast to hit $125 billion, with crypto platforms playing their part. Such staggering growth would not be possible without innovation on the part of betting establishments and games developers. 

In fairness, innovation has long been a hallmark of this industry, with recent developments including the emergence of provably fair casino games and the growth of esports. A few weeks ago, Rivalry became the latest esports platform to accept payment in bitcoin. By 2024, the e-sports betting market is expected to generate $862m in revenue, growing its share of global betting from 1.6% in 2019 to 3.2% by 2024.

If Decentraland’s vision is to be fulfilled, Vegas City will be but a small part of it. However, like the real Vegas it will generate the most headlines. Virtual events – concerts, conferences, movie premieres – could occur in the Entertainment Quarter, with punters paying in cryptocurrency. Over in the Casino Quarter, gamblers will be able to choose from a range of licensed establishments offering the usual table fare as well as more interactive and immersive options. And don’t expect these casinos to be lacking in glitz and glamor: even the earliest examples of Decentraland’s virtual casinos were characterized by opulent fixtures and fittings and grand staircases. As more developers join the party, competition among casinos will surely intensify.

The Next Steps

Committed to delivering value while leveraging cryptocurrency, the creators of this intriguing new world-on-a-blockchain are nothing if not ambitious.  But if they are to really see liftoff, Ethereum will need to solve its age-old scaling problem and address high gas fees. What’s more, Decentraland needs to address the fact that its Marketplace is prohibitively expensive for all but the most monied gamers. Providing such kinks can be ironed out, Decentraland will surely lay the blueprint for the future of crypto gambling.

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