Facebook’s Libra and How Its Redefines Enterprise Blockchain

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In mid-June 2018, globally renowned tech company Facebook finally revealed Facebook Libra following several long months of preparation and development. As expected, the launch represents a plethora of possibilities for the crypto and blockchain space which is definitely not going to be the same again.

What It Does

Facebook Libra will deliver on one of the most notable features of other digital currencies, that is, it will allow its users to make purchases and send money to other people with close to zero fees. Users will also be able to pseudonymously cash out the digital currency online or at local exchanges points such as grocery stores. They will then be able to spend the Libra using interoperable third-party wallets apps or the company’s Calibra wallet which will not only have a standalone app but will also be built into Messenger and even WhatsApp.

During the announcement, Facebook released its whitepaper explaining the digital currency and its testnet in order to get everyone up to speed with everything before its public launch early next year. From what we have been able to gather so far, so many things about the digital currency already look very promising.

How It Will Work

Facebook will not have full control over Libra and instead, it will only have a single vote on the governance of the cryptocurrency and so will other founding members of the Libra Association who include Uber, Visa as well as Andreessen Horowitz. Each of these companies has reportedly invested no less than $10 million on various aspects of the Libra project.

Going forward, the Libra Association will be promoting the open-source Libra Blockchain and developer platform with its Move programming language. In addition to that, it will also be signing up various businesses to the platform.

Furthermore, Facebook is also set to launch a subsidiary company that will be responsible for handling crypto dealings and protecting the privacy of the users – this will be achieved by ensuring that Facebook user data never mingles with the Libra payments. In essence, your real identity will not be tied to your Libra payments with the goal being to ensure that the information is used for targeted advertising.

Why Is It Such A Big Deal?

Well, why wouldn’t it be? Facebook is one of the leading tech companies on the planet and the fact that it is embracing crypto and blockchain technology was definitely bound to generate some buzz. That aside, the company did not just announce another blockchain protocol – these have become commonplace these days. The company has instead chosen to focus on banking its unbanked users (close to 1.7 billion people). This is certainly not an easy task but if there is anyone that can do it, it’s Facebook thanks largely to the resources it has. Besides, it is going to be a very rewarding venture for the company down the line.

Japan Ramps Up Crypto Gambling Regulation

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Even though Japan is known to be one of the most welcoming environments for new technologies, the country is seemingly very cautious when it comes to gambling. In fact, it has been very strict about the spread of crypto gambling activities and this has been a major obstacle for the most, if not all, of the crypto gambling companies.

Most recently, in March 2019, the company behind renowned cryptocurrency Tron announced that it would no longer allow gambling DApps (Decentralized Applications) based on its platform to be used in Japan – this move was in compliance with the country’s regulations. Moreover, Tron has discouraged crypto enthusiasts in Japan from creating similar DApps while also imploring non-Japanese developers to block the country’s IP addresses from using their gambling platforms. To top it all off, the company has promised to work alongside Japanese authorities in order to identify breaches of the laws and regulations.

The State of Online Gambling and Crypto in Japan

Japan has been one of the most resistive territories in the world when it comes to gambling. However, the country has softened its stance in recent years with the legalization of casinos and resorts casinos – there was significant resistance to these plans particularly due to concerns that the move would result in more case of gambling addiction. As it turns out, there are already a number of illegal casinos operating across the country’s cities and therefore regulation might have been the best way to go about the issue.

Digital currencies and blockchain have also taken off in recent years and people and business have been working hard to find uses for them across several different platforms. Crypto gambling, for instance, has been one of the most widespread and interesting applications of the technology. In the simplest form, these digital currencies can be used in place of fiat currency in online gambling sites and this means that online gambling will be less costly, transactions will be faster and the gamblers can place bets anonymously.

Anonymity, while considered to be a desirable feature by very many gamblers, is not a very appealing idea for regulators. As such, the Japanese authorities have come to the realization that crypto gambling poses a threat to its ability to regulate the activity. This is precisely the reason why the agreement with Tron to purge all gambling DApps from the territory is a major win for the country as it fights to keep gambling activities under its control.

Australian Tax Office Hunts for Crypto Tax Evaders

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If you are a holder of crypto and a citizen of Australia or are currently residing in the country you had better be on the good books of the national tax agency. The Australian Tax Office through an April 30 press release announced that it has started collecting bulk record from Australian-designated service providers such as digital currency exchanges and other firms that are dealing in crypto.

As it stands the tax office is working with a wide estimate of 500,000 to one million Australians who have been trading in crypto-related activities and ignoring their tax obligations. The number of crypto users on Australia has been growing at a rather rapid rate and this has caught the attention of the authorities who are hopeful that the industry might help in filling some of the existing tax gaps.

Unsurprisingly, the authority’s aim is to carry on a data matching program that will help them to determine whether the taxpayer’s declarations are correct or if the crypto holders are deliberately dodging their fiscal responsibilities.

“The ATO uses third-party data to improve the integrity of the tax system by identifying taxpayers who fail to disclose their income details correctly. We also use third-party data to assist taxpayers in meeting their tax obligations through pre-filling of tax returns. This data will be collected under notice from the DSPs on an ongoing basis,” Will Day, deputy commissioner of the ATO said about the strategy.

Some of the information that the tax authority will be obtaining from the crypto-related business in the country will include purchase and sale records. Fortunately for them, Australian required businesses to keep certain critical records that include digital wallet records and keys, receipts of transfer or purchase of crypto assets as well as exchange records.

All of the taxpayers who will be found to have violated the law will first be contacted by the tax agency once the exercise is complete after which the necessary compliance action will be taken.

Crypto Tax Laws in Australia

Under Australian law, all capital gains that may be obtained from crypto trading are supposed to be taxed. The only exception is where the capital gains or the losses made are in a situation where the digital currency is a “personal use asset”. As such, in cases where digital currencies are disposed as a normal business operation, the profits that are yielded from it are considered to be ordinary income instead of capital gains. Moreover, in such a case the cost of purchasing the cryptocurrencies is considered to be trading stock and is therefore deductible – this kind of businesses are mostly trading firms and exchanges.

Lightning Spin Becomes First-Ever Lapp to Be Sold

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Lightning Spin, a bitcoin gambling game that is based on the famous Lightning Network’s pioneering lightning applications (Lapps) has recently announced its sale. The game marks the first-ever Lapp that the has organized a sale. Developed and launched roughly nine months ago by Portuguese web developer Rui Gomes, the sale of the games has the entire Lightning Network community quite excited about everything primarily because it is a catalyst for further development on the network in the near future.

With the application, the users are able to able to enjoy instantly settled microtransactions and withdrawals. This not only makes it a gem in the world of bitcoin but also a revolutionary step forward for the Lightning Network which has been trying to go mainstream for a while now.

“You could pay 6¢ for a single spin, (1 BTC was around $6,000 back then) and withdraw your winnings in seconds — something that would be impossible with the fiat system and would be increasingly difficult on Bitcoin’s base layer,” Rui Gomes said in a recent blog post that highlighted the various features and novelties in the game.

In addition to disclosing further details about the Lightning Spin Lapp, the developer also revealed that at the time the Lightning Network was being sold, it had already been sold a whopping 120,000 times by at least 3,300 individuals. However, despite touching on a couple of issues and various aspects of the Lapp, he refrained from revealing any details about the parties that the game was sold to.

He, however, assured his Twitter followers that the new owners of the game share a similar vision and enthusiasm as his in as far as the Lightning Network is concerned – as a matter of fact, heaven turned away some other very well-paying buyers simply because they did not have much in common

Lightning Network’s Expansion

The sale of the game coincidently comes at the about the same time that the Lightning Network is expanding. For the last two years, the Lightning Network has grown to be one of the most popular solutions for the scaling problem found in the Bitcoin Core (BTC) network. Its expansion is, therefore, a sign that it may finally be ready to grow beyond what it already is at the moment.

However, just like any other revolutionary, the Lightning Network has been subject to a lot of criticism especially with regards to its lack of security. Naturally, these security concerns need to be addressed as soon as possible if any more progress is to be made in the near future.

EOSBet Unveils Bitcoin Betting and Account System

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After making history at the end of last year by becoming the very first blockchain-based casino to receive an official gambling license EOSBet decentralized application recently announced the next step in its journey toward mass adoption of crypto and blockchain. The platform has made its first big step in 2019 by launching a decentralized account system alongside a native bitcoin deposit and betting option.

After receiving its official gambling license, EOSBet became one of top-rated EOS dApps and it will be taking its proactive approach towards innovation into the future with its new and impressive betting option and its neat account system.

The EOS Account System

One of the biggest challenges experienced by users of blockchain technology is the numerous entry barriers that often come in the form of lengthy wallet setup processes among other things. The EOSBet system seeks to solve this problem by developing a system that allows users to deposit funds directly from any source thus eliminating the need for the use of any wallet or third-party software. Furthermore, the system will also cover all the blockchain costs for the players thus allowing them to enjoy the same gaming experience they would find at a tradition centralized casino on the decentralized one.

EOSBet’s account system, just like every other aspect of the platform, is decentralized and completely on-chain which means that all the actions are fully viewable on any block explorer. All the actions also eventually become part of the EOS blockchain and since the system is non-custodial, the players will always be in total control of their funds.

To make the experience even better, the EOSBet team chose to use a simple two-click sign up process that is not only very intuitive but also optimized to work seamlessly across a wide range of devices. With the new system, even people who do not have accounts with ESO can bet securely and get to participate in its very generous player rewards program.

Bitcoin Betting Is Officially Here!

While there have been a number of previous attempts at bitcoin betting with varying degrees of success, EOSBet has beat every other company to becoming the very first on-chain casino to natively accept bitcoin. As if that is not enough, the company plans to implement several other digital currencies in the near future. The betting platform works very well – all a player needs to do is to deposit bitcoin to their accounts, play instantly and then withdraw whenever they may wish to do so.

Both the betting option and the accounts system are slated to take the online gambling industry by storm and this is certainly going to play a huge role in the long-awaited mainstream adoption of digital currencies and blockchain. 2019 might be the year it finally happens.

Electronic Arts (EA) Ceases Sale of FIFA Points in Belgium

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Belgium declared loot boxes in video games as illegal and unregulated forms of gambling in 2018 and since then a number of game developers made changes so as to comply with the new law. Not Electronic Arts (EA) though – the company was not amused by the directive and chose to defend the use of loot boxes in video games instead of honoring the law, at least until now. Owing to increased pressure, the game developer has backed down from its previously defiant stance and has now ceased the sale of FIFA Points, an in-game currency that is offered in the company’s FIFA series.

The changes were meant to come into effect by January 1 which means that as from the first day of February, FIFA gamers in Belgium will not be able to purchase points in order to obtain FIFA Ultimate Packs. Fortunately, the players will still be able to access the Ultimate Team and play with their existing players. Also, as it has always been, players will still be able to earn all content in the game through gameplay and use coins as well as the in-game transfer market. For Belgian players who already have FIFA points in their accounts, they will still be able to use them but they will not be allowed to purchase more of them.

Belgium’s and Netherland’s gambling commissions came to the conclusion that loot boxes in video games that were fueled by real-money purchases are equivalent to casino games like roulette or spinning the reels of a slot machine. In essence, most countries, including the United States, classify the spending of real money on wagers for potential reward as gambling. Many game developers are mulling over these facts trying to find suitable workarounds.

What It Means for the Industry

In many ways, Electronic Arts started this whole thing thanks to its decision to include tons of heavy-handed transactions as well as loot crates in Star Wars Battlefront II. Despite the backlash from both players and gaming authorities, EA maintains its adamancy that loot boxes are not a form of gambling. In fact, the company said that it would still be seeking “more clarity” on the matter. Luckily enough, the FIFA Points were not critical to the company’s finances which means that this would have played out quite differently if that was not the case.

All things considered, while Belgium may seem like a relatively small market for video games especially when compared to other countries in Europe, its decision to ban loot boxes is certainly bound to get some attention. As is stands, legislators in the United States, the United Kingdome, and Japan have all been looking into loot boxes in the recent past with the main aim being to protect consumers especially those are underage or at risk of becoming gambling addicts.

Crypto Regulation: What Was and What Could Be

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2018 was without a big year for cryptocurrencies as a whole particularly because it saw through a number of developments that kicked off in late 2017. There has been an equal measure of ups and downs in the crypto space which, in one way or the other, have been key to the growth of the industry. Keeping all that in mind, one of the key considerations that many people had in the last year and are looking to improve upon is regulation. With more and more institutional investors streaming into the blockchain and crypto space, there has been an outcry for increased regulation which is expected to be a key driver of the crypto bear market of the past year.

Most of these investors also blamed the initial coin offering (ICO) market’s cool-down on potential threats. To put this into perspective, in October 2018, initial coin offering issuers collected close to $770 million, which is a 50 percent drop of what they raised in December 2017. Apparently, this slowdown was a result of continued pronouncements by SEC Chairman Jay Clayton that said ICOs are securities which imply that those that do not register with the SEC would face dire legal consequences.

What This year Holds

One thing that we can all agree on is that 2019 will certainly be the year that crypto regulation climbs to greater heights. In essence, this means that it is likely that various crypto regulations will become a defining move for such organizations as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as well as other financial bodies in all parts of the globe. While some crypto-related businesses may be reluctant to follow the SEC’s rules, existing regulations are already taking a massive toll on a number of crypto businesses and this is likely to increase further as the year progresses.

Regulation, as always, is always going to be double-sided phenomena. On one hand, existing and future regulations may inhibit innovation – some companies may close their doors and others may avoid starting up altogether. The main takeaway here is that we might go through a transition period where companies and businesses that are not able to play by the rules will be forced to step aside.

On the other hand, proving that cryptocurrencies do indeed have some legitimacy might actually be easier with more regulation in place. Already, the entry of institutional investors is starting to becoming a big deal for people who were skeptical of crypto. It is well known that the borderless and anonymous nature of cryptocurrencies makes them nearly impossible to control but with more regulation, reasonable solutions are certainly bound to be found.

Congress Pushing for Federal Oversight over Sports Betting

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After months of speculations details regarding a new bill have leaked revealing plans for a sweeping reform to sports betting in the United States. If the bill passes, states would be required to have their sports betting laws approved by the country’s Attorney General and purchase official major league data.  The latter seems to be a nod to the professional sports leagues which have been lobbying for integrity fees – the sports betting operators would be required to use only league-sanctioned data until at least 2023.

However, the bill which is being, championed by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch who has been a longtime opposer of gambling, is facing a number of significant obstacles due to opposition especially from the growing number of states that have either create their own sports betting regulations or are planning to.

The language in the draft bill seems to contradict the May 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that abolished PASPA and lifted the federal on sports betting thus allowing states to make their own sports betting regulation. To put this into perspective, the Supreme Court ruled that it had found the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) to be unconstitutional and decreed that states would be able to regulate their own gambling industries especially with regards to sports betting.

The Implications

The bill not only gives the federal government the power to veto the sports betting laws and regulation that have been put in place by the state governments but also bans the residents of these states from wagering on amateur sporting events. Moreover, the bill will make amendments to the Wire Act and this will allow some elements of sports betting information to flow from one state to another.

In addition to these, the draft bill further calls for the formation of the National Sports Wagering Clearinghouse. This would be responsible for collecting anonymized sports betting data in real-time – this data will include such aspects as the amount and type of wagers, the dates and time when the bets, where the bets were placed as well as their outcomes. In essence, the proposed clearinghouse is meant to monitor unusual betting patterns and potential signs of corruption. The legislation further addresses concerns related to sports betting-related advertising as well as problem gambling, both of which have been very hard to deal with effectively.

So, could this bill pass? Well, the passing any bill is an uphill task mostly due to the country’s contemporary political environment but this particular bill’s biggest obstacle is the fact that it has not been received well by gambling stakeholders. Even the American Gaming Association is against it. In other words, the bill is unlikely to gain momentum, at least not for the upcoming 116th Congress that convenes in January.

Worldpay, Paysafe Unite for US Gambling Partnership

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Global payment providers Worldpay, Inc., and Paysafe Group have recently announced a new strategic partnership that is aimed at establishing a standard for the sports betting and online gaming digital payments acceptance and security in the United States. This move is perhaps a well-timed response to the rapid growth of the online and sport betting industry following the May Supreme Court ruling that event that lifted the federal ban on sports betting thus individual states the go-ahead to liberate on their own sports betting regulations.

Paysafe Group is one of the world’s most popular providers of end-to-end payment solutions and its core business is enabling businesses and consumers to connect and perform seamless transactions. The company has well over two decades worth of experience, close to 3,000 employees and up to 12 global locations. Worldpay, Inc, on the other hand, is highly regarded for its capability to power global omni-commerce.

The duo’s partnership will leverage Worldpay’s optimized credit card processing, fast-fund payouts as well the included treasury and payment solutions. Paysafe, on the other hand, will be providing its online gambling and gaming digital payment options which include Paysafecard online cash solution and NETELLER wallet. With this partnership in place, the duo will be able to facilitate seamless transactions while reducing operating costs and allowing universal payment acceptance.

This is exactly what the American sports betting and online gaming industry need as they continue to grow – the American Gaming Association estimates that the sports betting market in the country is worth over $150 billion in gross online and offline gaming revenue. From the looks of it, it could become the largest sports betting market in the world and therefore reliable and convenient payment systems are necessary.

More Choices for the Players

Joel Leonoff, the President and CEO of Paysafe Group believes that the partnership will be able to effectively champion the needs of both the players and the operators by giving them access to a secure, high-configurable and cost-effective payments systems that will deliver an unmatched player experience. The innovative approach the duo will be going with means that the partners will be able to support all transactions. In essence, this means that there will be a ton of payment choices for players to choose from.

In a statement released shortly after the announcement of the partnership, Shane Happach, Worldpay’s executive vice president and head of global enterprise eCommerce pointed out that the combined strengths and capabilities of the two companies would simplify payment options for the gaming operators while “continuing to show our attentiveness to responsible gaming and our mission to protect the integrity of every transaction.”

Are Esports Operators Prepared to Handle Skill-Based Games?

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Last month, renowned esports gambling website Unikrn announced plans to bring legal skill-based betting to the United States which will allow players to wager on themselves. Players will be able to link their games to their Unikrn accounts and the platform will in turn generated odds for the player based on their profiles within the game. This is one of the biggest milestones since the launch of such skill-based competitive video games such as Player Unknown’s Battleground and Fortnite.

As much as the esports industry is picking up in several different areas, Ian Smith, the commissioner of the Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) is concerned that the industry is yet to be prepared for it. To be more specific, Mr. Smith is skeptical about operators like Unikrn having the ability to ensure the skill ratings of the punters match the abilities of those that are manning the game controls.

The Loopholes

One of the most notable loopholes of this model is the fact that some players may place Fortnite bets using their personal account then handle the controller over to a more talented gamer. Similarly, there is the possibility that some players may nuke the game profile and then hustle the system by placing a series of bets. To make it worse, the ESIC commissioner is still not certain about the existence of any tools that identify players and make sure that player is actually the holder of the game account on platforms such as Unikrn’s.

Unikrn, on the other hand, is very confident about the ability of its team to handle issues to do with fraud. According to Unikrn’s chief executive officer, Rahul Sood, the platform has been studying each and every player’s game so as to thoroughly understand the competitive ecosystem of all the games hosted on its platform. This might be the case especially considering how great the platform’s customer experience is – this is only possible by knowing the gaming style of each player. This information can also be very useful for the company if it is to maintain the integrity of the betting platform.

Is This Effective Enough?

It is still quite obvious that it will be very difficult to detect cheating in battle royale such as Fortnite and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds than in other types of video games. This is primarily because these battle royale games usually feature multiple players all fighting to emerge as the last man standing.

Furthermore, data from these games are not very reliable because their results are not very predictable – most anti-fraud measures are based on the predictability of certain activities or actions. For instance, talented players can sometimes be easily knocked out of the games during the early stages and a less experienced player may, in some case, get lucky enough to win the game. Since battle royale games are not like the conventional esports betting formats better solutions are definitely needed.