The World Gambling Executive Summit or “WGES” has always been one of my favorite gambling industry conferences of the year, one because it takes place at the stunning W Hotel in Barcelona and two, because of the senior crowd it attracts. Due to COVID related issues, the 2021 edition of WGES was pushed from July to December and while the usual poolside parties were missed, we all thoroughly enjoyed the experience in unprecedented times.
My main objective for attending WGES 2021 was to talk with gambling industry professionals about blockchain technology and highlight the opportunities available to them today. In order to fulfill my mission, I engaged in a number of one-to-one discussions with delegates and moderated two blockchain-related panels.
On the first day of the event, I was delighted to discover a number of WGES delegates already had blockchain tech on their radars. There were also several experts, including my panelists, roaming around the summit ready to answer questions and introduce blockchain-based solutions.
“We have a very good proposition, a very unique proposition that we’re taking into the marketplace,” nChain’s Sales Director Nick Hill said of their BSV blockchain-based Kensei platform.
“From the regulators, we’re being very well received because they’re seeing blockchain as a progressive technology that is enhancing and protecting the player’s experience,” he said.
Operators are also beginning to see the unique powers of blockchain technology, including its ability to notarise their interactions with players and other documentation related to compliance, AML and KYC.
“It’s just a more secure form of data transmission and storage,” Simon Thomas, CEO of London’s Hippodrome Casino said of blockchain technology.
“So whether or not we like blockchain, understand it, it’s there in the background, it’s happening and we’ll try to find the positives with it and minimise any negatives and worries that people have about it,” he said.
NFTs are all the rage at the minute, even within the gambling industry. However, gambling industry professionals are still trying to figure out how to utilize NFTs within their businesses, rather than just treating them as a speculative asset.
“The NFT space specifically is an absolute must to dig into now. We are still in the early days of the NFT impact,” shared Pierre Lindh, Founder of iGaming NEXT.
“NFTs blowing up in the digital art space is just the beginning, really. I think that is how people perceive NFTs today, but I don’t think that is how people will perceive NFTs and what they can do with this technology in the future,” he predicted.
Phil Runyan, CEO of Hold Gaming, is passionate about putting our identities—including all the documentation required to prove them—“on-chain” for frictionless payments and access.
“Instead of having a hundred apps that you play and you buy virtual and currency items on, instead of having to put your credit card information in every single time…you put in your information to a single place, and then from there you’re able to tap into it across multiple products,” he said.
The two panels I moderated at WGES took place on the second day, the first with a focus on payments in the blockchain space and how to make them sustainable in the future. Micropayments was an area I really wanted to hit during the panel as its one of the greatest innovations of Bitcoin and an area of untapped opportunity.
“You can have a penny slot where you can pay out your affiliate when that new user comes in based upon their play. You can pay them in real time every single time that penny slot is spun. You can pay your content supplier every single time a spin takes place, predicated on your theoretical loss,” Runyan pointed out during the panel.
“There’s no more delays in payments. Affiliates will be more inclined to want to work with you because they’re not going to wait for money,” he added.
“Affiliates or businesses, we’re media owners, we’ve got cash flow, we’ve got the media buying, we’ve got staff to pay. So cash is always king. Anybody who can pay us quicker and what we’re owed…is obviously going to be our number one choice as a business partner,” added fellow panelist Fintan Costello, Managing Director at BonusFinder.com
The second panel I moderated focused on blockchain technology and how it has grown within the gambling industry over the last ten years, a discussion that covered all the hot topics, including NFTs.
Stefan Kovach, Founder of RARERTHINGS, has been at the forefront of blockchain and gambling from the start and is now broadening his expertise to NFTs, the metaverse and Web3.0. During the panel he pointed out how industries such as fashion, sport and art have embraced NFTs and said there’s a “wholesale revolution” that is beginning to happen, yet the gambling space has been slower to adopt.
Hill, also a panelist, focused more on blockchain-powered utility applications for the gambling industry and why low transaction fees are key to adoption.
“If you can get the transaction fees down to an acceptable level, let’s call it a cent, or two cents, or half a cent, then you can actually start to manage a business,” he said.
“This is where blockchain can now start to be used as a utility application. And it will benefit the operator in the long run, the player and of course the regulator,” Hill added.
The conversations during my panels and across the expo floor all led back to one central point: we are making progress with blockchain technology in the gambling industry, but regulation is still a challenge and more education is needed.
“Education is key,” Kovach said.
“There’s an enormous amount of education that is still required and that’s going to be required on an ongoing basis. I think it’s still relatively early days, I think we’ve moved a long way from where we were five years ago,” he said.
“I think what’s holding us as an industry back is on a regulatory front…we’re seeing other industries that are embracing the technology much quicker, but they are less regulated,” Lindh added.
“The whole of the next year is about educating the audience into the benefits of utilising blockchain other than the usual, ‘oh its payments, oh, it’s this, oh it’s NFTs, its tokens.’ No, there are so many more applications for the use of the BSV technology,” Hill added.
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