Emerging trends in iGaming, finance and beyond

by Christopher Attard

Blockchain takes centre stage

SiGMA went out of its way to emphasise the strong chemistry between blockchain technology, the financial markets and iGaming in 2018.

SiGMA Brock Pierce Brock Pierce tells a story; a blockchain story.

Speaking at SiGMA 2018’s blockchain conference, American entrepreneur Brock Pierce outlined how the learning curve for digital currencies varied among different populations in the early 2000s. Indeed, younger generations (millennials and digital natives), who were already familiar with “in-game currencies” like that of World of Warcraft and other popular games, were among the first adopters of Bitcoin.

This came in tandem with a rapidly evolving iGaming landscape. Realising the incredible volatility in the budding crypto space, professional poker players were also drawn in, which made for an unholy alliance between risk seekers and gamers- who are considerably more cautious. Together, the two forged demand for digital markets to thrive, which in turn led to the explosive market upside that saw Bitcoin skyrocket to $20,000 in December of last year.

Refreshing the Internet

Building on a somewhat “revolutionary” twist, Brock also referred to what projects like the blockchain-based “Brave” browser and “ShellPay” are attempting to address. Mirroring this shared vision, Brock proposed: “We’re going to be seeing a new stack, where the blockchain foundation is providing the security layer for that stack… meaning everything you know on the Internet is going to be rebuilt from the ground up.”

With his alluring revolutionary wording, Brock is referring to an emerging realisation that the current Internet infrastructure - with the big four behemoths (FANG) holding fast at the helm - could be on the verge of being completely reimagined. To this effect, Brock continued: “It’s also worth noting that the Internet is broken. When the internet was first being architected, the cryptography necessary to secure it was known, but the processing power wasn’t there at the time... certain parties didn’t want it to be secure – they wanted back doors. Fast forward to today and the problem is that we’ve built the entire Internet on a faulty foundation”.

Value transfer goes digital

SiGMA - iGaming Robert Courtneidge speaks of crypto-agnosticism for the payments industry.

Shifting gears towards the changing financial landscape, Robert Courtneidge highlighted the need to “create something better” in the payments sector. To achieve this vision, Robert underlined how the transfer of value has become “very stale,” and that there is a need for service providers to be deliberately “crypto agnostic”. This in part characterises the ‘platform provider’ mentality, wherein firms and institutions create a sandbox environment in which market forces choose the winners over time.

New players make waves

Given that this is the year of crypto-regulation, it was also a relief to see the emergence of an EU-targeted, fully-regulated, cryptocurrency exchange that purports to solve the problem of insufficient liquidity in crypto markets.

SiGMA -- iGaming Jimmy Zhao outlines the need for asset-based securities.

Addressing a panel about precious metals and digital safe havens, CMO of ZBX, Jimmy Zhao, said that he'd like to see next generation exchanges take on the charge of issuing "asset-based securities". In plain English, this means that an online token would be tied to a real-world asset like Gold, silver, or as Jimmy put it - wine.

However, the timing of this endeavour could be taken both ways depending on which side of the pond one sits. Indeed, as it happens, cryptocurrencies are in the midst of another major correction, as Bitcoin bears push prices to year-on-year lows. Contrary to widespread hopes of a fourth quarter rally, the flagship cryptocurrency fell through its $6,000 psychological support level, opening the door to a deluge of selling pressure.

Despite this confirmed market direction, however, Brock emphasised a long-term optimistic outlook, which paints current price-action as a drop in a much bigger ocean. In his view, Bitcoin’s price is the primary barometer of market sentiment and does not reflect the fundamentals. Such an idea isn’t at all new, and has been echoed repeatedly over Bitcoin’s lifetime, particularly during steep price retraces in bear cycles. More to the point, such sentiment alludes to the distinction between technical and fundamental analysis – both of which are commonly used by traders and investor capitalists alike.

Connecting the dots

All in all, SiGMA 2018 aired a sense of curiosity, novelty and high expectations from the union of cryptocurrencies, blockchain, iGaming and finance. Coupled with bespoke regulatory frameworks, these sub-divisions and their respective idiosyncrasies speak to the next big leap in innovation. If anything at all, this is an encouraging thought.

That being said, it’s safe to say that with over 12,500 attendees, the world’s iGaming village hosted yet another event of epic proportions. As this picture comes together, a prominent networking environment is all that is needed to connect the dots.

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