Nick Hill on ‘Hashing it Out’ Episode 4: Blockchain as a utility application for iGaming businesses

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Episode four of “Hashing It Out” holds a very special place in my heart for several reasons, first because my guest, Nick Hill, is a dear friend and shares the same passion for the iGaming industry as I do. Second, this episode was filmed in-person at my husband’s restaurant Tziganos, right in the heart of London’s charming Blackheath Village.

In this special setting, a nice treat after months of lockdown, we kicked off our discussion by uncovering how blockchain technology made its way onto Hill’s radar screen.

Hill has been a part of the iGaming industry for nearly 20 years, holding C-level positions with various iGaming software providers and eventually transitioning to Asia-facing consultancy services, mostly in payments processing. It was at this point when Hill first took notice of “crypto” and wanted to dig deeper into it.

“That’s when I started to realize that there was more to the technology than just being a processing element,” he recounted.

“I started to understand that you could do more with the blockchain as a utility application and start to use that within the business to streamline your processes and supply chain management and various other aspects within businesses, which really starts to excite me,” Hill revealed.

Once Hill caught the blockchain bug, he started working with CoinGeek in 2020 as an ambassador of sorts, introducing blockchain technology to the iGaming world which he knows so very well.

“It’s leveraging those contacts, leveraging my knowledge, and introducing the attributes of using BSV blockchain in this particular vertical. I’ve started writing a number of articles that are promoting how to use blockchain and ideas around using this new technology,” he confirmed.

These CoinGeek articles of Hill’s address why gaming needs blockchain and take a deep dive into subjects such as blockchain for affiliate marketing, remote gaming servers and cashless casinos. Gambling Insider, a popular B2B industry publication, has also identified Hill as a source of blockchain information for their readers and featured the first of many blockchain articles of Hill’s in a recent Gambling Insider Magazine issue.

A huge bonus of Hill’s recent focus on the intersection of iGaming and blockchain technology has been the opportunity to work with him closely, an absolute pleasure for me. This luxury was underscored when CoinGeek released a Blockchain for Gambling Survey and Hill was able to help fan out the survey to his contacts and sit with me here today to discuss the results.

We were able to obtain survey responses from 584 gambling industry professionals of which were mostly CEOs, middle management and affiliates, the majority coming from the online gambling space.

38 percent of those surveyed accept digital currencies as payment at the gambling sites they work for, the obvious leader being BTC followed by Ethereum as a distant second.

“In my mind, there’s two sides to blockchain. You’ve got one side, which is your payment processing which is crypto and you got your other side which is blockchain, which is being used for utility applications,” Hill said in response to the numbers.

“The crypto side is payment processing and that’s where 38 percent of the survey came out and said that they’re using that primarily to acquire deposits, to acquire new players, to acquire a new breed of player and acquire deposits from those players,” he said.

“Most casinos that have a crypto processing policy or facility aren’t paying back out in crypto. So they’re acquiring then converting, using the exchange, converting into fiat and then the player is in the casino or the sportsbook wagering with casino currency or fiat currencies,” Hill explained.

“The other side is where you do have purebred crypto casinos…you are totally immersed and providing a crypto environment. Now these are aiming for a different audience. They are probably targeting the more of the high roller,” he added.

The results also revealed that 88 percent of those surveyed do not have any active projects with blockchain other than the use of digital currencies.

“I’m not surprised that people aren’t developing applications using blockchain technology at the moment because there aren’t any products out there that are built on chain for companies to adapt or integrate or work with,” Hill pointed out.

“No one company is going to suddenly swap out all their legacy technology and implement a whole new strategy, which is unproven, unfounded, unregulated to a certain extent and suddenly start building things with blockchain,” he said.

“Blockchain has come on in the last few years immensely. It’s totally changed…now people are starting to wake up to using it as a utility application. It’s only now that it’s starting to happen that businesses are starting to adopt it and look at it to look how they can reduce costs or how they can make things a little more transparent, how they can be more auditable, trackable and traceable,” he added.

The good news is that there will be blockchain-based products available soon, according to Hill. In fact, he is working with companies right now who are in the process of developing products that can address a lot of the key issues the gambling space currently grapples with.

To get an idea of what these key issues are, the survey also inquired about pain points gambling industry professionals are facing in general, with compliance and payment processing coming right in at the top of the list.

“Compliance, legislation, payment processing, responsible gambling, these are all big issues for all regulated entities, the gaming operators at this moment in time,” Hill confirmed.

“The UKGC and all the regulated territories throughout Europe are putting more and more pressure upon the operator to become more compliant, to become more responsible with regards to how they’re advertising, how they’re incentivizing their players to continue wagering, so there has to be more accountability and more transparency from the operator to the regulator,” he said.

“Blockchain enables the operators to not only protect themselves and protect themselves from fines that they’ve been getting, but also to protect the player,” he said.

“[Operators] have the ability to store everything on chain. So it’s on a timestamped immutable ledger that can always be referred back to…and it can be accessible by the player, accessible by the operator because they know where it is and also you give the keys to the regulator and then they can interrogate that data,” Hill added.

Those surveyed that are not using blockchain technology at present also shared what’s preventing them from doing so, with regulation and unfamiliarity clocking in as the top two reasons why.

“The regulator is struggling because as I said before, you’ve got two sides. You’ve got your crypto side, which is payment processing and you’ve got the blockchain side. The regulators are struggling to regulate the payment processing side, the crypto side,” Hill explained.

“The blockchain side, using it, as we say, for enterprise level utility application, is not so difficult to regulate because you’re actually using a progressive technology to enhance player experience, to protect the player, to protect the operator, to protect the gaming ecosystem. So it’s the transparency of it all,” he said.

We both expected unfamiliarity with blockchain to be a common response, yet we were delighted to learn nearly 90 percent of those surveyed are interested in learning more. In fact, during Hill’s panel at CoinGeek Live last October, he emphasized the importance of education for those in the iGaming space, a theme that will continue this week at CoinGeek Zurich, an event both Hill and I will be participating in.

“I’m moderating the panel which is for the iGaming vertical…the actual content of that panel is going to be about player profiling and data segmentation and how this can go into various other aspects of once you’ve got the player profiling, taking it more into the compliance, regulatory, responsible gaming and possibly even starting to touch on AML and KYC issues,” Hill revealed.

The panels I will be moderating at CoinGeek Zurich will also provide valuable content and BSV blockchain education for the gaming industry, the first with a focus on esports and casual games and the second with a focus on performance advertising and affiliate marketing. All three of our gaming industry panels will take place after lunch on June 9, we welcome you to join us virtually and registration is free.

In addition to our panels, both Hill and I are excited about a number of other panels that cover topics pertinent to the iGaming space and provide a peek into the exciting future of technology using the BSV blockchain.

We recommend checking out the stablecoin panel featuring iGaming industry vets Matt Dickson of BitBoss and Daniel Lipshitz of Gap600; the panel on micropayments also shouldn’t be missed, same with the NFT panel and so many more. There’s even a session about a small country in the South Pacific that is taking their whole country onto the BSV blockchain…as you can see, the possibilities with this technology are simply endless!

New to blockchain? Check out CoinGeek’s Blockchain for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about blockchain technology.