Can a 100% transparent, 0% house edge online casino revolutionize the industry?

  • Q3 launch for new Edgeless casino based on Ethereum
  • Few games, but will transparency and 0% house edge tempt players?

It’s the old mantra – the house always wins. You might get lucky one time, but in the long run, you’ll simply end up lining the pockets of casino owners. At the end of the day, its the math that does for you.

The Edgeless casino website - will it revolutionize online gambling?
The Edgeless casino website – will it revolutionize online gambling?

And that’s if you trust the math – many players deep down, have a suspicion, fairly or not, that not all is quite as it seems with casino games. Have the odds been surreptitiously moved even further away from the player, by nefarious means? Paranoia often, but the seed of doubt exists among many.

So what if you had online casinos, which could not only prove that all of its games are fair, but could also offer no house edge at all?

That is what the soon-to-be-launched Edgeless casino is aiming to do.

But that’s not all – this casino concept is also pioneering another area – the blockchain, and specifically Ethereum – the new kid in town to the relatively well-known and established Bitcoin.

Edgeless wants to be the world’s first fully decentralized online casino.

Here comes the science bit

Tomas Draksas, a former pro poker player, is a co-founder of the project, which, like bitcoin casinos that have gone before it, extolls the virtues of blockchain gambling – notably the 100% transparency and ‘provably fair’ nature of the games.

It is at this point that some sort of explainer on Ethereum is in order.

Firstly, it is not solely a cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, although Ethereum does also feature its own version called Ether.

Like Bitcoin, Ethereum is decentralized and fully auditable.

Ethereum’s selling point in the gambling sense, is that via smart contracts, the whole casino and its games can actually be based on the blockchain. By design therefore, any game created using Ethereum will be provably fair.

The random number generator, for example, so crucial to online casino games of all kinds, will be open to scrutiny.

So, a whiter-than-white casino experience with no chance of being screwed over, and a better house edge than its competitors, is what Edgeless hopes will make it stand out.

Trust, or a lack of

We know that many players are not wholly happy with their online casinos. In fact, even in a well regulated jurisdiction like the UK, the industry has something of an image problem.

To pull out just one stat from a report by regulator the UK Gambling Commission, only 34% of players think that gambling in the country is carried out in a fair way. While that figure includes all forms of gambling, it does point to a worrying problem with public perception.

And if this trust gap exists in the UK, what must it be like for players in less well regulated jurisdictions, who have to rely on more suspicious operators to get their casino fix?

And here we have the opening in the market for Edgeless.

Tomas said: “The gambling industry is already full of scam cases and scandals.

“The reputation of a sector is already not that good and people pay a lot of attention to owners of the house. We bet that transparency, blockchain fast asset transactions plus low fees and a 0% edge is a game changer.”

“Even if a market is regulated it does not mean that a casino is not cheating. They can easily cheat and it’s almost impossible to catch it even in regulated market. Also just a fact that there is an option to cheat is a huge turn off for people.”

Can you have a 0% house edge?

The math would say there’s no profit to be made from a 0% house edge, but that is not always true.

Where a game requires a certain amount of skill, a casino can emerge victorious thanks to ‘sub-optimal play’ or, to put it another way, humans being human and making mistakes.

“A 0% house edge is provided on games which require certain amount of skill such as blackjack,” said Tomas.

“Technically a casino earns profits from a player’s bad moves. That’s the lowest house edge which we try to provide on the market. It has never existed before. And everyone would love to play a fair game against the casino.”

What’s the catch?

The thing with blockchain is that there is no ‘catch’ – everything is auditable. But there are limitations.

First off, Edgeless is a brand new casino on a relatively new blockchain platform. There is a continuous development process that means when it first launches in Q3 of 2017 (at the last estimate) it will be a long way from the finished article.

Second, there are no slot games – so bad luck if you love a spin – especially as the concept of a near-100% return to player slot would certainly be an intriguing one.

Third is the games themselves. Are they really going to be able to compete with the big-name online casinos, which have access to slots with all the bells and whistles, top quality online table games, live dealer casino options and more?

On this point, Tomas said Edgeless would be allocating “a decent amount of resource” to the games and user experience.

“We plan to have a game experience which is on a similar level as most online game providers. But of course it will take time and it won’t be built in a day,” he said.

Then there is regulation. Currently Edgeless is registered in Curacao, but there are plans to apply for Estonian and UK licenses in due course. That is, however, not an easy or quick process.

Tomas said: “Our long term vision is not to hide in the shadow, but rather negotiate with a regulator and get all necessary legal things done.”

Lastly, and to get a bit technical, using Ethereum as a platform does present problems in terms of speed of play and cost per transaction, or for example per bet in blackjack.

Tomas though, says that issue is being dealt with: “We already solved speed of play. Now we are programming a new version of the smart-contract which can put a lot of hands into one transaction. So ‘hand costs’ will be solved with our full product launch.”

‘Smart contract optimization’ as its known, is one of the key challenges of the crypto-gambling market and getting it right will be key to its success.

Next steps

Edgeless is currently testing games ready for its Q3 launch, at which point it will expect to have blackjack, a dice game and Lounge Lottery – a game which allows players to compete for a prize pool that accumulates over time.

The games will be played using special tokens, called EDG tokens, based of course on Ethereum.

Will this be the next big thing in online casinos? Certainly Tomas thinks that blockchain is the future.

He said: “We estimate (5 years period) more than 50% of gambling industry products will use blockchain on a back-end. Others will not manage to compete and eventually it will move on the blockchain.”

READ: How entreprenuer Jez San is looking to create the Uber of online casinos using Ethereum.

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