Bitcoin gambling is still in its infancy, and there are many new innovative competitors emerging. Below is a review of three bitcoin gambling platforms that provide betting on events.
Bitbet.us offers pari-mutuel markets on a range of topics including politics, sports, entertainment, and bitcoins. Like many other bitcoin betting sites, users do not open an account with the site in order to make a bet. With the nature of bitcoin, users send their bet to a bitcoin address of the site, and if the bet is a winner, profits are then sent back to the same address. This enables users to remain anonymous.
Another interesting aspect of bitbet.us is they allow users to create and settle their own markets. Bitbet.us provides users with brief guidance with how to propose markets. I’m not sure their system is working very well as only 21 markets are currently listed on the site. I think bitbet.us would have a better platform if they created a easier system to post markets, and posted their own standardized markets in order to give users more choices since the marginal cost of posting and settling a contract could be low.
Another problem I noticed with bitbet.us is many of their listed contracts close in the distant future such as months in advance. Having markets that close in the distant future (longer than a few days) is a problem for a pari-mutuel market because there is no incentive to bet early. Sophisticated users will wait until the final moments of a market to place their bets because they will gain the information of the market (how much is bet on what) and from the underlying event. For example, a sharp better will take the market action into account before placing a bet by looking at the odds and amounts on each outcome to see whether the pool odds reflect alternative market odds or handicapping odds. A sharp better will also use the current information of the market to place their bets.
To use a market on bitbet.us as an example of the problem with their market structure, let’s consider the market currently posted of “Francois Fillon wins the 2017 French presidential elections”. The market closes in three months and will be settled shortly afterwards following the election results. There is no reason why a better would place a bet this early in the market! The early better only gives themselves a disadvantage. bitbet.us would do a better job if they created and closed the market each week, and then settled this “serial” of contracts at the same time. What amazes me is that there is already 6.98 btc bet on this market, and with a 2% rake from the pool, bitbet.us has a profit of 0.14 btc locked in.
Based on site stats, bitbet.us has collected over $600,000 worth of rake in the past two years of its existence.
Fairlay is a bitcoin binary option market. Its the closest thing to InTrade still available. The market displays odds on particular binary outcomes. For example, if a question is asked such as “will Emma Stone win best actress at the Oscars”, the outcome is either yes or no, and the current odds are displayed as 2.10. Users can toggle the odds format they want to display between decimal, american, and fractional. Fairlay also offers markets on a wide variety of topics such as sports, entertainment, entertainment, bitcoins, etc. I can tell that they’ve made some effort to create markets automatically so there is some consistency in the way contracts are listed.
I noticed there are a bunch of markets on Fairlay without any volume, but there are still some market makers posting prices. Making markets on Fairlay can be profitable, especially where there are alternative venues with the same market structure (such as being able to place a bet on the oscars on William Hill and then comparing those odds at whats listed at Fairlay). I’m generally impressed by the Fairlay system. One of the early challenges with InTrade was latency. With new technology and programming methods, many of the latency issues are easier to overcome today.
Fairlay charges a 2% on winning bets and no fees on certain markets. They also list denominations in mBTC.
BetMoose is mostly a pari-mutuel marketplace, but there are a limited number of fixed price markets available. BetMoose users are also able to create their own markets.
The most innovative thing that BetMoose does is provide a time weighted factor to pari-mutuel bets. This is an attempt to encourage early betting. Their formula = 1 + (0.005 * # of hours between the current time and the bet deadline). As you can see, their formula provides a linear incentive, and does not account for the log-normal value of time. To provide a more accurate time weighted incentive, they should apply a log normal function. But kudos to BetMoose for even thinking of this. Its something that I’ve proposed and I’m calling it a dynamic rake.
Each of the sites discussed has its own pros and cons. I think one thing that the entire group of sites could do better is standardize their contracts. Its a good idea to have users post and resolve their own markets, but the value that a site can provide is minimized and I think it creates a more disorganized user experience. It would be better from the average user’s perspective to be able to easily view and manage a number of consistent markets. These standardized markets should be posted by the site so they are standardized over time periods. This way, its easier for users to compare and make more bets over time without having to worry about the particulars of each contract or market.
Although Fairlay is probably the best of the three, BitBet.us and BetMoose can improve their user interface. I also wonder why none of these sites has an open API. High volume betters really appreciate an open API that they can use to manage their markets in their own dashboard since they are managing a book for trades/bets over multiple platforms.