Two years on from Bitcoin’s mainstream breakthrough, land-based casinos are beginning to explore valuable use cases for the technology upon which the leading cryptocurrency is built.
While popular cryptocurrencies are the centre of an ongoing regulatory debate, casinos are finding that blockchains - essentially distributed ledgers that securely and immutably store and transmit data via cryptography - can confer benefits across a range of fields, including security, data, payments and even loyalty programs.
Last December, Hong Kong-based gaming firm Alphaslot said it had secured a multi-million dollar investment, led by China's Sora Ventures, to fund the expansion of the company and the launch of a tokenized blockchain entertainment platform targeted at the gaming industry.
“There is strong demand for new entertainment experiences that attract new players and a blockchain ecosystem is the catalyst,” Alphaslot founder and CEO Raymond Chan said at the time. “This second round of investment proves the confidence from investors on what we have achieved so far and will absolutely speed up our blockchain deployment plan.”
Alphaslot is currently looking to build partnerships with operators and suppliers which share its vision to create a gaming experience where players are more engaged with digital assets - such as skins, avatars and other items - within the land-based environment.
“We believe the opportunity and future is enormous. There’s only so much ‘creativity’ on casino floors nowadays and allowing players to engage in both online/offline will truly be innovative,” Alphaslot’s COO Albert Yu told AGB.
“The amount of data regulators are able to collect will also help solve problem gambling and better trace AML and related behaviours. After all, what blockchain can provide is traceability, immutable ledgers and transparency which are all important factors for gaming industry,” he added.
In May, roulette manufacturer Cammegh - which includes among its customers Silver Heritage and City of Dreams - announced plans to launch its own token on the CasinoCoin blockchain, that would allow it to transmit immutable data from each and every spin of its roulette wheels.
“The Cammegh Token enables us to generate huge levels of secure data and provide the software tools and products to help our customers improve their customers’ experience, streamline operations, manage costs …. the list goes on,” Cammegh MD Richard Cammegh said at the time.
New technology on the block
For John Caldwell, a former PokerStars executive who serves as director of advocacy for the CasinoCoin Foundation, the land-based sector is well-placed to capitalise on blockchain’s potential.
“We see a significant opportunity for blockchain technology on the casino floor, even if so far most of the focus has been on using cryptocurrencies as a payment method online,” Caldwell told AGB.
CasinoCoin’s USP is a strong focus on the regulated gaming sector - the team is working closely with regulators to help build frameworks via which blockchain technology can safely and compliantly be delivered to end users.
“There is no reason why a regulated cryptocurrency which incorporates AML and KYC checks couldn’t be spent in a casino via digital wallets and integrated into wider casino management systems. Of course, this would have the added benefit of making it easier to track customer profiles and new ways to communicate and retain customers,” said Caldwell.
But beyond payments, there are other areas where we are more likely to initially see the technology in active use on the casino floor.
Connecting roulette wheels to blockchain tech with Cammegh is one such example. “These wheels have been capturing data for some time now, but our blockchain enables this data to be immutably stored and transferred for the first time. This will ensure its validity and help protect against fraud,” Caldwell said.
Another area he notes is casino loyalty programs. “We are able to create a closed-loop ecosystem, where players earn a customized token - which sits upon our blockchain - as they play. This token can then be spent within the casino or affiliated outlets, such as a restaurant or hotel.
“Bringing an entire loyalty program on-chain is a fantastic way for operators to automate while increasing security and cutting back on fraud.”
For a technology that is barely a decade old, and as far as real-world gaming use cases still being developed for the first time, the biggest challenge could be an educational one.
Yu at Alphaslot noted that the company is regularly speaking at conferences across Asia, Europe and the US, explaining what blockchain can do for regulators, operators, suppliers and players.
Caldwell agreed that education was important, but sees blockchain as a natural fit for an industry that is looking to attract the next generation of casino visitors.
“It is true that land-based casinos are not always the first to implement new technologies. But with pressure to engage younger customers, we see blockchain as an area where there are tangible benefits that casinos can begin enjoying in the short-term.”
Asia Gaming Brief is a news and intelligence service providing up to date market information for worldwide executives on relevant gaming issues in Asia.
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