This article has been a long time coming, as it is becoming more and more prevalent. Gambling in Chia, and in cryptocurrency in general, is a pretty major – if controversial – use case. Yet lots of people are very against it and think that anonymous online gambling is a black mark on the industry, alongside ransomware and money laundering, and should not be encouraged by the serious companies building solutions in the space. As usual my thoughts on the matter are nuanced and complicated.
First, online poker was one of the first real world things I ever did with cryptocurrency. Maybe the first. Back in the early days of bitcoin when I was mining it there wasn’t much you could do with it. You just didn’t get enough, and it wasn’t worth enough to bother with. Sound familiar? But when the price started to skyrocket in 2013 or 2014 I discovered a Tor accessible onion site that hosted an online poker game where you played with bitcoin. I had a LOT of fun there, and probably ended up losing 0.25 BTC over the course of a few weeks. It was great. It was also probably a scam, totally unregulated and I’m sure that I got robbed somehow.
Today we have things like MojoDice, which was possibly the most profitable Chia-based enterprise when I spoke to the developers. MojoDice is a provably fair over/under gambling game where you have a 50% chance of winning or losing based on random numbers generated by the hashing methods naturally used by Chia transactions. Its pretty cool, and I spent about a week totally addicted to it (and ended my run up a little bit). But I have also had a number of people message me very concerned about the idea that a tricksy gambling game could be the face of Chia and what that would do to investment in the space. And make no mistake, it would have an effect. Online gambling is a VERY touchy subject in certain jurisdictions and people seen to be facilitating it can face serious difficulties.
The developers themselves are very smart. They are students from MIT as confirmed by the Chia team and were basically building a simple mathematical proof. They never expected the site to be so popular, and even they seemed a little a uncomfortable with it. They definitely didn’t do anything wrong, but its certainly possible they did something illegal depending on a number of complicated factors. I hope that nothing bad ever happens to them because of this stuff because I really liked the team and I think they have very bright futures ahead of them. I worry what happens to those futures if MojoDice goes sideways in any way. And that worry is part of the problem when gambling because it does create a certain risk for all parties that doesn’t exist with other transaction based companies.
Because of their success I have seen a number of other Mojo based gambling outfits advertising themselves. I haven’t looked in to any others, so I won’t write about them specifically. Since MojoDice is making so much money on their little web app it is a guarantee we will see more pop up. Some you can trust, and some you cant. Be very careful when using one of these services.
To top it off, in the last Chia AMA Bram Cohen spent a large part his speaking time describing a gambling game run on-chain that he is calling poker. This is official support for Chia-based gambling applications, even developing them in-house apparently, and might make even more folks uncomfortable with the association. What about when it launches, is Chia now a gambling software company? What are the implications there? I don’t know of any other mainstream enterprise software companies that moonlight blackjack game.
Even the Chia Fork ecosystem is not immune. Maize, a fork I am not too familiar with, has built themselves an online Casino where you can play normal casino games using their coin, and an exchange where you can buy it. I think this is a very interesting use case, and might even generate enough sales volume to keep your fork afloat, but again anyone doing this is tying themselves to a very specific industry with very specific rules that are almost certainly being broken here.
Overall gambling is not a major portion of the Chia ecosystem. At least not yet. But it does have the potential to be a troubling one, and will only take one bad actor to spoil the entire idea. But because the whole system is unregulated there is a certainty to bad actors, and I think that because of that most Chia farmers and investors should probably stay away.