Richard Walsh, Managing Director of the Coingaming Group which operates Sportsbet.io, spoke to SBC News about the sportsbook’s journey, the burgeoning blockchain technology and transparency over legal issues in bitcoin betting.
SBC: Hi Richard, can you summarise for SBC readers the Sportsbet.io journey from its inception and initial planning, through to its current day-to-day operations?
RW: Since launching in-time for the European Championships last year, Sportsbet.io has experienced a rapid rise to become the leading bitcoin-led sportsbook on the market, and we expect this to continue with revenues and sign-ups increasing month-on-month.
Its inception came about from a very straightforward idea: to provide bitcoin users with a high-quality sportsbook offering fast withdrawals and strong security.
We are pleased to be the first bitcoin sportsbook to deliver a user experience that matches tier one operators. We’d seen demand for a sportsbook from customer research within our gaming arm, and so we went about building Sportsbet.io to appeal to existing casino players but also to tap into the substantial number of sports fans with a bitcoin interest.
Today, we are now capable of offering round-the-clock action with more than 350,000 pre-match events per year, a comprehensive live betting calendar, market-leading withdrawal times and are well under way with further product developments, so watch this space.
SBC: From a leader’s perspective, is bitcoin betting/gambling simply a niche; can its backers really gain operational and consumer scale?
RW: Bitcoin gaming has operated in a niche in recent years, but this is due to the nature of bitcoin education in the general industry as opposed to the product itself.
What we can offer as a bitcoin-led sportsbook is no different to that of a traditional operator. If anything, our service is superior with security built on burgeoning blockchain technology, offering peace of mind to regulators and players alike, but also unprecedented payment times, with withdrawals occurring in seconds as opposed to days. We currently average just two minutes and 12 seconds from withdrawal request to depositing in players’ bitcoin wallets, which is unheard of at traditional operators.
With bitcoin, and to an extent the broader blockchain, becoming more ingrained into day-to-day life of punters, it is only a matter of time before operators such as ourselves become mainstream and we look forward to welcoming the huge proportion of bettors who are yet to experience the ease and enjoyment that we can offer.
The tide is definitely turning. We have been making a swathe of senior hires with previous experience at the likes of William Hill, GVC, Betsson, Betclic and Unibet and we expect this trend to continue as people see the enormous potential for bitcoin betting and want to become part of this exciting company and movement.
SBC: When building a bitcoin wagering platform, what unique factors does your team have to consider in order to gain an effective product?
RW: We have found bitcoin users are generally much savvier when it comes to how and what they bet on and we have had to ensure we offer a superior product to ensure we keep this valued custom.
This has been done by ensuring our user experience is market-leading. We have created a fluid betting journey from sign-up, through deposits, to placing a bet and finally to our rapid withdrawal service.
Our betting offering has also had to be focussed on the demands of bitcoin users. With a generally younger demographic and larger geographical spread, we have had to promote relevant sports and betting markets.
For example, over the last year we have started offering player prop bets to our customers, where they can bet on specific statistic markets, such as which player will have more shots on target, or make the most yards. It is these progressive betting offers that we receive positive feedback from as customers increasingly look away from the traditional win-draw-win and total goal markets.
SBC: From a legal perspective, Sportsbet.io wants to bring clarity to bitcoin betting. What does this necessarily entail?
RW: There has been some undeserved negative press within the bitcoin industry over recent years, and so the onus has been on us to ensure we are clear and transparent in our activities. We have fully committed to working with regulators, ensuring we are operating best practice within each jurisdiction we operate.
We have sought and attained licences in various countries and are developing strong relationships with regulatory bodies. For instance, we see opportunities in the UK, where the Gambling Commission has recently added digital currency to its list of accredited payment methods.
Working alongside regulators also allows us to educate them on bitcoin-specific issues which previously they may have been wary of, to the detriment of the industry.
Using geo-tracking technology has also allowed us to operate a transparent customer base. Tracking players’ country of origin by tracing devices digital fingerprints provides us with the information to allow or deny players access to our service – this is a huge factor in bringing clarity to bitcoin betting.
SBC: How do you see your product and services developing in the coming months?
RW: We are very optimistic about the growth of Sportsbet.io in the coming months. We’ve been recruiting heavily to ensure we can keep up with the expansion of the brand, increasing turnover and player numbers. This will also see improvements to the site as we aim to create the ultimate user experience and further build on our betting offering.
I also expect bitcoin to carry on its trajectory into the mainstream, which will see a more diverse customer base and hopefully a more conducive regulatory framework to work within. We will continue to keep a keen eye on any developments which can help us improve our services and bring our product to more users.