Back in October, CCN.com reported on the online gaming platform called Gambit, which allows users to bet on versions of Risk, Monopoly, and Battleship with Bitcoin. (Their versions are respectively called World War, Bitnopoly, and Oh Ship! – and there are other games on the platform as well.)
Players deposit Bitcoin using an in-house system and then can place bets on the games they’re playing. Bets go into a pot, and the winner takes all minus a house fee. Though for the past few weeks, the site has been taking no rake whatsoever, apparently in a bid to stimulate user sign-ups. CCN.com was particularly fond of the Bitnopoly game, because we were, in fact, one of the more valuable properties on the board.
Dollar Gambling Added
On March 13th, the site made an exciting announcement – they had added US dollar gaming. Users were able to fund their dollar account using Bitcoin, as well, which was a nice added feature. For withdrawal, the user could withdraw to a debit card or a bank account. The seamless and smooth way these transactions were handled – and the way they integrated Bitcoin – were all but unheard of, especially as far as betting on board games goes.
One can find a multitude of sites that offer peer-to-peer gambling for money, such as Seals with Clubs, or that offer paid gambling in general. But to find a site that offers peer-to-peer board gaming with the ability to profit by it – that is a difficult task.
Dollar & Bitcoin Gambling Feature Killed
Just two weeks after adding US dollar gaming, on March 30th, the site made a crushing announcement which many players were unhappy with. They would soon stop supporting both Bitcoin and Dollar gaming, and would convert to a for-fun-only gaming site, presumably supported by advertising or something. These are their stated reasons:
- It is costly and difficult to ensure 100% legality in all 50 states for every game we’d like to offer on our platform.
- Bitcoin ecosystem is still very small. It will be years before there are enough Bitcoin enthusiasts to make Bitcoin betting on skill games a viable business model.
- Skill-based betting is a difficult market to operate in. Sharks prey on the fish until the fish no longer want to come back. Sharks never play each other and stalemates ensue.
- It is very difficult to police and prove that a user cheats. As the site grows, so will the cheating.
“Years Before There Are Enough Bitcoin Enthusiasts”
As you can see in the following image, 5 out of 8 users has explicitly negative views toward this change. One might safely wager that the majority of the players came for the very reason that they could have fun and bet Bitcoin (without traditional gambling) at the same time. Only a small percentage of the site’s existing user base is not a “Bitcoin enthusiast,” and thus it seems the site might be shooting itself in the foot.
It is sad to see this highly functional gaming site leave the Bitcoin ecosystem and go on to compete with ancient contenders like Yahoo! Games. It does offer games that are difficult to find elsewhere, but will it have a large user base now that it doesn’t have its one redeeming feature, Bitcoin? The site’s owners seem to think so, in that they write in their blog:
“It has become clear that the majority of users on Gambit come to play for fun. Even if they do wager with Bitcoin, it’s in such small quantities that it is no different than playing for fun. […] As soon as we launch these changes, you’ll be happy to hear that we will be doing a massive marketing campaign to let millions of users know about Gambit.”
It does not mention the reasons that bets are small, but they are pretty simple. One, it’s hard to find others to match a larger bet when one is placed, due to the small size of the site’s user base. And two, there is currently no “provably fair” feature to the site, so users have to trust that everything is working the way it’s meant to, and also that there is no cheating going on. The first problem could be solved by increasing the number of users (doing the marketing campaign without changing anything). The second could be solved by instituting better controls on cheating.
Sites come and go. Hopefully, a new site which offers Bitcoin skill-based gaming will rise to fill the void that will be left by Gambit. Certainly there is a demand, and as Gambit themselves state, that demand is growing all the time.
Images by Shutterstock and phm.link.