Announcing our partnership with The Bitcoin Strip!

In recent months, the team here at the Crypto Gambling Foundation (CGF) have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to improve operator standards, whilst developing our brand and expanding our reach throughout the industry. With the main goal to revolutionise the implementation of provable fairness and its importance in the gambling industry, we are constantly looking for others that share the same ideals to assist in achieving our vision.

A product that has drawn our attention in recent times has been The Bitcoin Strip. Their dedication to ensuring a strategy similar to ours meant it was a no-brainer for both parties to join a partnership.

Whilst in early stages, I took the time to sit down with the owner of our newest partner, Nick, to discuss a few passionate topics that I'm sure a lot of our readers and stakeholders would love to hear about.

 

Whats the story behind the Bitcoin strip?

I started out playing online poker back in 2006 when the industry was going through massive growth. I sat at the tables for 10 to 12 hours a day and ended up playing professionally for several years. That all changed in 2011 when the industry took a major hit during "Black Friday" – an enormous crackdown on online poker sites by the US Government that led to the player base shrinking enormously.

Coincidentally, this came at a time when Bitcoin was beginning to get some attention. I saw an opportunity for players to side-step the regulators to play with what was essentially considered "play money" at the time. Bitcoin poker sites like SealsWithClubs were beginning to see regular activity – a hint at what was to come for the Bitcoin gambling industry.

In light of this, I decided to begin my journey in the Bitcoin gambling affiliate space. Having had affiliate experience in the traditional poker and casino industry before, I felt this was the natural next step – and one to take before the rest of the industry caught on.

So The Bitcoin Strip is the culmination of this journey, seeing itself reiterated on and rebranded a number of times. It's crazy to think how serious this industry has become thinking back to those Bitcoin "play money" days of 2011.

 

How long have you been around for and what have you learn the most from this project?

There are a few things I've taken away from my time in this space, the first being that Bitcoin is king. Over the years, many other cryptocurrencies have claimed to be pulling in enormous betting volumes. I remember when EOS dice sites were posting revenues in the hundreds of millions. The reality is that these numbers are wildly exaggerated thanks to the low cost of faking volume on these blockchains. Our data shows that there is very little appetite for most of these altcoins when it comes to gambling.

It's also very clear that cryptocurrency gamblers are not like traditional gamblers. They tend to be younger, more tech-savvy and far more interested in a good user experience - anonymity is also key. Compare top Bitcoin betting sites like Stake with the likes of Bet365 or 888 and it's obvious we're talking about two ​very​ different markets.

 

What are some things we should be keeping an eye on the horizon for?

Smart contract gambling on Ethereum is going to be a big deal. Depositing and withdrawing with Bitcoin is one thing but being able to trustlessly bet without a middleman is going to be a game changer.

The reason this hasn't taken off yet is that each bet requires a block confirmation (15 seconds on Ethereum). There are a number of platforms that have tried to circumvent this through "state channels", but this reintroduces trust assumptions that defeat much of the point in decentralized gambling.

Going further, it's likely that Bitcoin gamblers will be able to take advantage of this with the introduction of low-trust ETH-BTC bridges like what we're seeing with tBTC. This will allow gamblers to essentially bet Bitcoin using highly secure Ethereum smart contracts and without ever losing custody of their funds to a third party.

Finally, there are stablecoins. I'm surprised by just how little up-take there is for stablecoin gambling by the operators and players in this space. USDT has had some integration, although what's needed is the inclusion of decentralized stablecoins like DAI, whose transactions are censorship resistant and whose value is – I'd argue – more secure.

Gambling Bitcoin is great, but betting with non-volatile crypto definitely has its place.

 

Where do you see things in the crypto space in the next decade?

If we're being really ambitious I see Central Bank Cryptocurrencies being issued and a blurring of the lines between Fiat and Crypto gambling. Government-regulated casinos will accept cryptocurrencies in the form of digital dollars, euros and pounds, with KYC deposits of Bitcoin and other public cryptocurrencies.

I also imagine we'll have a vibrant space of smart contract casinos with Ethereum dominating this sector. This will be thanks to the widespread adoption of web3 browsing from the likes of Chrome and Firefox, as well as native crypto-wallets built into Samsung, Pixel and iPhones. The ability to interact with blockchain-based gambling apps will be seamless and the functionality will be mind bending in today's terms.

Removing trust from the gambling system will unlock incredible new ideas that we can't even imagine today – similar to how the decentralized finance space is opening up entirely new concepts previously not thought of.

 

Who do you consider to be the biggest and most influential role models in the crypto gambling industry?

From operators and regulators all the way through to affiliates and players, there are a lot of people doing their part to ensure cryptocurrency gambling becomes a safer and more transparent market than traditional betting.

On the operator side, Stake is doing all the right things for their players and the industry. On top of their license from Curacao, the platform goes a long way to self-regulate and as a result have demonstrated what Bitcoin casinos are capable of.

On the Ethereum side, FunFair is demonstrating what can be done with smart contracts as a means to transparently resolve the trust issues that have previously plagued this space. The improvements in Ethereum technology over the coming years will hopefully give FunFair more space to shine.

While the CGF do not act as a regulator, they do provide some much needed integrity for this space. Their role in evaluating and certifying cryptocurrency casinos will prove evermore valuable as the industry grows.
 

In what way (if any) does provable fairness have an influence on operator reviews and rankings on your site?

Provable fairness (with an open source method of verifying bets), is one of the most important factors for us. With Bitcoin gambling, we see no reason why a casino cannot implement such a basic trust verification tool and expect to see more operators adding this feature in due course.

 

Do you get many queries from viewers regarding operator fairness and their provable fairness implementations?

I think the most telling thing is that we don't hear any ​complaints​ from players using casinos with provable fairness. In an industry that currently operates in a low-regulation environment, it's unsurprising that many players are suspicious of bad beats from platforms that have no way of verifying fairness.

The complaints we do receive are near-exclusively from traditional-styled casinos that have "tagged on" Bitcoin deposits and withdrawals with the same low level of opaqueness you might expect.

 

What would you like to see from/or help influence with this partnership with the CGF?

It's clear that the industry is in need of an organisation like the CGF. We're hoping that by including and making clear who our CGF-verified partners are, we'll be able to provide a much safer experience for our players.

Through our partnership, we are keen to help establish a globally recognized certificate of trust that can be applied to operators who adopt the highest standards of transparency and fairness.


Benchmarking true provable fairness

With the crypto gambling industry constantly evolving, it can be easy for operators to fall behind with the latest innovations and optimal implementations. This is an understandable setback when it comes to keeping up with the fastest growing industry in the world; but when it starts to affect the expected standards towards fairness in gambling, we feel the need to step in. We want to establish a genuine representation for the players and their best interests.

In our previous article, we wanted to raise appropriate awareness towards operators in the industry who are refusing to conform to industry standards in regard to how they handle the fairness implementations on their platform. This article will discuss the technical reasoning behind why these outdated implementations of provable fairness are dangerous for players, as well as what would need to be done to fix the inherent problems associated.

The problem

  • If you are using a unique server seed and/or client seed pair during each bet, this means that ultimately the power of the result is in the operators control. This is only unless the player checks the current pairing before each and every bet. Not only is this cumbersome but absolutely ridiculous when it comes to the player experience. This sort of implementation not only takes advantage of the fact players must blindly trust the operator if they don’t validate each pair, but also is somewhat deceitful when an appropriate solution exists but isn’t implemented.

 

Here's an example:

An operator can see that you are using a single strategy when auto-betting (ironically how most auto-betting platforms are setup) and then selectively choose which pair combinations can be offered to be in their favour.

 

The solution

  • Implement a nonce into the provably fairness algorithm OR use the salt/hash method. These methods ensure that you can transparently ensure that all bets conform to a genuine result stream that has been predetermined even before a player sets up an auto-betting strategy, without the need to tediously check before you place every single bet with that operator.
  • For operators like Luckygames, this would easily be solved by extending on their current provably fair algorithm to incorporate a nonce for each bet. This is not an unrealistic implementation and something that all players should be demanding to ensure there is no possible deceit in play.

Our goal here at the Crypto Gambling Foundation is to ensure the people with the smallest voice get the most out of their gambling experience. It’s easy for large casino operators to blindly provide a service that doesn’t ensure true legitimacy, especially when they utilise their large community following to dilute the concerns of players who genuinely care about their wellbeing.

There is nothing more harmful than operators in our industry who tarnish the integrity of provably fairness, especially consider how beneficial it is when implemented correctly.


The “Welcome Bonus” gimmick

Online casino bonuses come with Terms & Conditions that are not player friendly. Accepting these bonuses often leads to bettors not being able to withdraw their winnings, and in some cases having both their deposit and bonus confiscated by rogue casinos.

The average gambler, especially those unaccustomed to the online casino scene, are often not aware of some of these bogus T&C's. Many see the welcome bonus sign and proceed to deposit funds, thinking it is all free money. Sadly, a lot of online casinos operate solely to cheat players, and do everything possible to ensure players lose.

Wagering Requirements

The most controversial welcome bonus condition set by casinos is called the wagering requirement. This is the amount set by casinos which a player has to bet before their bonus is credited into their cash balance.

Most times, when a player opts in for a bonus, they are unable to withdraw their deposits and bonus until they have made enough bets to reach the required turnover threshold set by the casino.

It is worth considering that casino games are always established to be in favour of the house. The house-edge is set in a way that ensures players lose in the long-term. Even when gamblers go on winning runs, they eventually lose trying to reach the turnover limit set by the casino.

To add insult to injury, some bets are deemed ineligible for clearing turnover requirements. For example, bets made playing blackjack don’t often qualify because very good players are capable of devising strategies to minimise losses and increase their win rates.

In sports betting, the required odds are set very high by the casinos. This, coupled with the number of times a player must turn over their deposit and bonus amount ensures they lose it all. Generally casinos aren’t enamoured towards winning gamblers and often ban or limit them as soon as possible.

Experienced online gamblers often say claiming welcome bonuses is too much of a hassle these days. However, there are still genuine offers that aren’t designed to cheat players.

Casinos also use this method to protect themselves from players that abuse sign-up offers. There are a few things a player can do to ascertain if a bonus is worth claiming or not, before depositing their hard-earned money into an online casino.

  • Look out for predatory T&C's
    It is the player's responsibility to always read bonus terms and conditions. The player must make sure they fully understand all clauses before making a deposit. If the turnover requirement is draconian, avoid the casino at all cost.
  • Operating with true fairness
    Before depositing into any casino, it is very important to confirm that they are either providing provably fair gambling, or in some way or another are regulated and have a license. If they don’t have any form of fairness system in place, avoid them at all cost.
  • Positive reviews and endorsements
    Players must try as much as possible to search online for reviews and feedback from other players, both positive and negative before making a deposit. This is often the best way to gauge if a casino will cheat you or not.
  • Verification & jurisdiction
    Most casinos require KYC (know your customer) to determine if a player is eligible to use their platform. Always confirm if a casino allows players from your country. And whenever possible, confirm your identity before depositing to save yourself future hassles during the withdrawal process.

Established casinos have a brand to protect and more often than not, offer bonuses with reasonable terms. However, these conditions are designed to keep players betting for extended periods and only a lucky few complete them. The only way players can protect themselves is by researching and due diligence. Always read the T&C’s before committing.


How to choose a Bitcoin wallet

Bitcoins are stored digitally. This means, in order to store Bitcoin yourself, you will need a Bitcoin wallet. Much like shopping for a physical wallet, when you start shopping for a Bitcoin wallet, you are confronted with many choices. In this article, we will explore the options available when it comes to acquiring a new Bitcoin wallet.

Hot and Cold

The first decision you need to make is whether you will store your Bitcoins hot or cold. Any wallet that is connected to the internet is termed a hot wallet, whereas a wallet that is disconnected from the internet, such as a paper wallet, is referred to as a cold wallet.

Yes, you can store your Bitcoins on paper. Paper wallets are great for security but they are not very practical. To use your funds, you need to upload your off-line private key into a digital wallet. For this reason, paper wallets are best used for long term storage only. If you lose your paper wallet, you have lost your funds, so be sure to secure the paper you store your wallet on securely (i.e. in a fireproof safe). If you would like to make your own paper wallet, bitcoin.com have an easy to follow guide.

Web or Mobile?

Software based wallets come in three main varieties; web, mobile or desktop. Web solutions are usually the most convenient. With a web based solution, you trust the wallet provider to securely store your private key online. A popular web based wallet is blockchain.info. Web based wallets are super convenient but generally not recommended if you are storing a significant quantity of money. If you are using a web based wallet and are concerned about anonymity, be sure to choose a wallet provider that supports HD wallets.

A HD (Hierarchical Deterministic) wallet allows you to create many wallets from one seed.

A HD seed is a series of words, in a random order, used to generate your private key. When using a HD wallet, you are also able to recover your private key by utilising the HD seed.

Mobile wallets are similar to web based wallets, but as the name implies, are designed to be used on mobile devices. Mycellium and Airbitz are two popular mobile solutions. Both of these apps allow you to download an app onto your Android or Apple IOS phone, where you will have your wallet setup in minutes.

Desktop wallets

A desktop wallet offers better protection than a web or mobile based wallet. With a desktop wallet, you and you alone are in control of your private key.

Your private key is stored on your hard drive and in the case of hardware failure, you can recover it. However, if you have malware on your computer, someone could potentially access your private key, and if they can access your private key, they can access your funds.

If you are concerned about security, it is advisable to only connect your desktop wallet to the internet when you are actually transferring funds.

The most popular desktop wallet right now is Electrum. There are a number of reasons for this.

Electrum looks like it was designed about ten years ago judging from the UI, but don't let this fool you.

It is very robust, and it is also very secure. The strength in security comes from the fact that Electrum is open source, so the source code for the application is in the public domain. Another great feature of Electrum is the fact that it allows you to increase the mining fee you've sent after you have broadcast your transaction. This means if a transaction is taking a particularly long time, you can increase your fee, in the hope that you will speed it along.

Hardware wallets

Hardware wallets (cold because they are disconnected when not transacting) offer a great balance between security and convenience. Your private key is stored in a gadget that plugs into your PC, and this device must be plugged in to the internet to transact with your funds. Two of the more popular hardware wallets are Ledger and Trezor.

Hardware wallets are a great all round choice for medium-long term storage of your Bitcoin funds.


Why should I care about provably fair?

When you stroll into a casino, approach the cash desk and leave with a handful of chips, you do so for one reason and one reason only. You have faith that you can leave the casino a winner. This faith comes from the belief you have that the outcome of the bets you are about to place will be random, thus giving you a completely fair chance of getting 'lucky'.

You walk to the roulette wheel and place your bets on the table in the sure knowledge that neither yourself nor the person spinning the roulette wheel has any influence over the outcome of the spin.

This is not always the case online. You find a site, complete your due diligence and make a deposit. You play and you lose, you play some more and lose some more, and eventually a thought crosses your mind… what if the site you are playing on is not fair?

How do you know that the casino you are playing at online is not simply generating any outcome that guarantees them a win?

The answer? Provable fairness. The newest and more up-to-date casinos are embracing ground-breaking technology to completely remove this doubt from players’ minds. To generate a random outcome, gaming sites utilise a seed and run this through an algorithm. A seed is simply a starting point to generate a random number. Then an algorithm is a series of steps taken to convert that seed into a pseudo-random result.

In a Provably Fair gaming environment, the site publishes to the player the seed they are using in advance of the game, however they do so using encryption, so that the player is only able to determine the seed after the game has taken place. In a Provably Fair game, the player also provides their own seed to the server which is used as part of the random number generation process.

Once the game has taken place the player can decipher the seed belonging to the casino to verify that the outcome of the game they have just played was completely fair. That is, the casino generated the most random result possible without unfairly influencing the outcome in their favour.

Simply put, Provably Fair gaming is the fairest way of gambling anywhere online in the world.

Which is why when you play at a Provably Fair gaming site, you know the money you wager is in safe hands.