The rise of cryptocurrencies and the continued acceptance of these tokens as a medium of exchange led to the emergence of a number of crypto gambling sites in a gambling industry that had already experienced significant growth over the last few decades.
While it is great to see cryptocurrencies enjoying a use case in this industry, the unethical actions of several crypto-gambling sites, such as the ones unraveled by digital investigations journalist Sanya Burgess, look to overshadow their legitimacy.
Genesis Of Burgess’ Investigation
The investigative piece, published by Sky News, provides deep insights into the unethical and what some may consider “immoral” actions of several online crypto casinos that look to feed on the naivety and addiction of compulsive gamblers as part of their business model.
Burgess began her piece by stating how a video of music artist Drake promoting the foremost online crypto casino platform, Stake.com, piqued her curiosity. The Canadian artist is known to be an ambassador of the platform, with him posting several live streams and bets he has made on the crypto gambling site as part of the deal.
However, Drake wasn’t exactly the focus of the piece (his promotion of the platform is legal) but only a catalyst that spurred Burgess to dig deep into the “controversial world of crypto casinos.” Following this, she was able to uncover “some troubling practices in this online community.”
Insights Into The Crypto Gambling Industry
Before going on, it is worth mentioning that crypto casinos are illegal in the United Kingdom (UK) as the Gambling Commission prohibits any operator from accepting crypto as a direct method of payment. That is why Stake UK doesn’t accept crypto payments or transactions and only allows bets to be placed in fiat currency.
Despite this being a known fact, Burgess discovered that some crypto online casinos go as far as breaking British gambling laws in their bid to promote their sites and gain a huge chunk of the British gambling market. The reason for this act isn’t far-fetched as the UK boasts the largest crypto gambling market in Europe and the fifth-largest in the world, according to the report.
As part of their marketing efforts, Burgess mentions that these casinos sponsor influencers to live stream (on platforms like Twitch and Kick) themselves gambling and placing bets with “fake” money (with some of these influencers failing to disclose this important detail).
Some viewers, unaware that these live streams are adverts or that the winnings are possibly fake, go on to place bets of their own with the intention of winning money from this venture. Will Prochaska, who works with “Gambling with Lives,” mentions that this isn’t surprising as this basically forms part of these casino’s business model, which is based on Addiction.
The piece mentions an addict who hadn’t gambled in four years but went back to it after seeing multiple videos of these live streams. This particular gambler wasn’t aware of the fact that some of those bets made on live streams were placed with fake money, as he seemed to have been convinced to gamble again when he watched a particular video where the streamer made $5 million in “one go.”
Total market cap steadies above $1.05 trillion | Source: Crypto Total Market Cap on Tradingview.com
The illegal part comes in when these crypto casinos pay British streamers and urge them to use certain software to bypass geo-blockers in order to access these illegal sites. A particular British streamer (whom the piece names Joe) mentioned how one of these crypto casinos talked him into using a software to bypass measures that the UK authorities had put in place to prevent people from accessing these sites.
Burgess also discovered that some streamers advertise, on their social channels, certain crypto casinos on which users can use this software. They go as far as providing “step-by-step instructions” on how to go about this hack.
Interestingly, these crypto gambling sites are directly culpable as many do not even abide by the regulations that prohibit them from operating in the UK and servicing UK users. Burgess mentions how she opened “working accounts on four sites,” with three not requiring an address or accepting the UK address she provided.
Richard Williams, a leading gambling lawyer, is quoted in the investigative piece as stating that the operators of these crypto casino sites could be subject to criminal sanctions, including the senior executives of these companies.
Meanwhile, British streamers who accept deals from these crypto casinos to promote their sites may be guilty of advertising unlawful gambling, which is also an offense, according to Williams.
Burgess stated that the attention of the UK’s gambling regulator, the Gambling Commission, has been drawn to her findings, and they have moved to investigate some of these discoveries.
The Government has also praised the investigation. Notably, the Health Secretary Steve Barclay praised the investigative work and mentioned that his colleagues would be looking into its findings.
Featured image from The BC.Game Blog, chart from Tradingview.com