On July 9th 2018, a new blockchain-based gambling application was launched to what was then largely muted applause. Augur was then the world’s first and only example of an open and decentralised prediction platform.
Despite the relative lack of fanfare, the launch of Augur was hugely significant. It leverages blockchain technology – the same technology which underpins Bitcoin – to facilitate the creation of gambling markets which are transparent and over which no-one can exercise control.
In other words, it was the world’s first example of an open-source gambling platform where anyone can both create and participate in betting markets, and do so anonymously.
The implications for the gambling industry generally were profound – even if largely unnoticed. However, this first release of Augur has been largely inaccessible for the wider general public – use of its interface was far from intuitive and required downloading the entire history of the Ethereum blockchain upon which the Augur platform has been built.
Added to that, bets submitted to the Augur platform could only be done with volatile cryptocurrencies such as ETH and REP (Augur’s own native cryptocurrency). Given the extreme volatility of these currencies, any gains made from a winning bet could easily be wiped out in light of a rapid fall of their USD trading price. REP itself has traded anywhere from $7 to $17 since the beginning of the year.
However, one year is a long time in crypto – and Augur’s proponents have learned some valuable lessons.
Its development team have incorporated a stable-coin – a cryptocurrency that is pegged to a traditional, stable currency such as USD – in its upcoming Version 2 release that has also been designed to accommodate much faster dispute resolution times.
But it is arguably the “external layers” that Augur provides to third-parties which will now see the platform move to the next level.
One such service is Guesser.io – a start-up which has received seed investment from venture capitalist outfit VersionOne – which is now setting out to offer a seamless user experience. According to its developers, the project’s core mission is to create a product which is “so good and so simple to use that users forget they are dealing with decentralized currencies”.
Guesser itself only went live in January but has largely achieved its “3 clicks” usage objective – at least for crypto-savvy users who possess some Ethereum and who have familiarity with the MetaMask Chrome plug-in (which provides a secure interface into the Ethereum blockchain).
The drawback, however, is that the Guesser platform only currently offers six markets, including today’s Women’s World Cup Final – a small percentage of the 800 or so markets that Augur has accommodated over the course its first year.
The Guesser project team cites “liquidity and interest” as the prime reason for the current number of markets, but has stated that it will be accommodating markets for cryptocurrencies, finance and politics for future expansion. It seems more likely, however, that Augur’s upcoming accommodation of stable-coin cryptocurrencies will be much more pivotal for the adoption of blockchain gambling more generally.