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GC: It was actually you that taught me how in some cases gambling operators could become obsolete because of blockchain technology like Bitcoin. How would that be the case? JM: Ethereum is another cryptocurrency with a blockchain – it’s similar to Bitcoin, but it also allows for smart contracts that resolve automatically if certain conditions are met. This in turn provides the necessary infrastructure to create a decentralized exchange that isn’t operated on a website any more, but instead on the Ethereum blockchain itself. That has several implications: • It’s virtually impossible for anyone state to enforce a shutdown of the exchange, because there is no central website or server that can be switched off.


• There is no need for a betting operator anymore, because properly defined smart contracts can take care of receiving wagers and distributing the winnings automatically, therefore taking out the middle man entirely. The bookie is essentially replaced with programming code.


• There is no need for accounts anymore and therefore no need to trust a bookmaker with your funds, because you can place bets directly from your Ethereum wallet into a smart contract.


GC: How far down the road are we on this? JM: One decentralised exchange has already been created. Its name is Augur and it already has been functional for almost half a year now. It’s important to realize that Augur isn’t a betting operator, it simply is a platform, a piece of infrastructure that no-one controls. Anybody with an Ethereum wallet can place bets on Augur and even create markets on anything. So far, the liquidity on Augur isn’t great, but that is to be expected during the early days. It already works pretty well for major sporting events and betting on politics. There is even a sizeable portion dedicated to betting on financial markets, especially cryptocurrencies.


GC: Bitcoin as a payment method. How do you see this evolving? JM: At the very least Bitcoin, Ethereum and similar cryptocurrencies will remain an alternative to the existing banking system, and as such a payment method that will gain traction over time – and it already has been embraced by some betting operators. It’s worth noting that the only reason Wikileaks survived financially was Bitcoin, which tells you how powerful the idea is. In case of a major financial crisis I can even see cryptocurrencies partially replace the current banking system over time.


GC: Is there any specific direction in technology you yourself would like to see to help your business model? JM: Decentralisation as seen with Augur is the most desirable direction for my company, because right now the environment for professional betting is rather fragile. There are only a few key operators, and if one or more have to close up shop for one reason or another it certainly wouldn’t be pretty. Two of the five most important operators for us are based in Manila for example, and the political situation there is rather unstable.


GC: One last question. Any recommendations you would have for, on the one hand betting operators and the other, punters? JM: Make yourself future-proof. As a betting operator you might have to figure out how to port your business model on to a decentralized exchange like Augur. As a punter on the other hand you should explore all options available to you. A key part of regulation is usually to protect the customer. The Augur model is so interesting for punters mainly because you don’t have to trust a third party with your funds any longer.


GC: I can’t help myself. There is one more last question. If you were to visit a casino, what games would we see you play? And, why? JM: Craps! I recently visited Las Vegas and instantly fell in love with this casino game. It has a very low house edge on the main bets, and it often creates an awesome group dynamic because the players at the table usually all win and lose together. Best entertainment value for money all around!


GC: Thank you, not only for coming here for an interview, but also for being so open. It is much appreciated. JM: The pleasure was all mine.


Greetings from Brussels


38 JANUARY 2019


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