The word “Disruptive” is so overused these days, especially in the crypto space, that one feels as if it has lost all meaning – rarely is it ever truly applicable to projects that proclaim to revolutionize the industry they operate in. Fortunately there are a few exceptions to this and I believe FunFair is one such instance.
FunFair initially went out of stealth mode in Q2 2017 and at this point they had already been working on their tech platform & games for about 6 months – it was announced without too much fanfare (pun intended)by founder and CEO Jez San, OBE. FunFair is essentially a technology provider for Online Gambling Operators. FunFair creates gambling games and the tools necessary to deploy and manage them.
The main value proposition differentiating FUN from every competitor operating in the space is a very simple and compelling one. Their platform is powered entirely by the Ethereum blockchain and is one of the first Turing-complete implementations of general state channels, tailored specifically for gambling and aptly named Fate Channels. This allows games to be provably fair, fast and fun.
The Vision, the Platform and the Tech
The gambling industry stands to benefit enormously from adopting and integrating Blockchain technology as it is a space heavily reliant on trust and fairness (or at least the public’s perception of these attributes). The industry has been under increased scrutiny recently due to some questionable practices related to withdrawals limits and the UK Gambling Commission is at the forefront of this push calling for more strict requirements to enhance consumer protection in the sector.
FunFair is uniquely positioned to capitalize on this potential as the FUN vision goes a step beyond what most other companies working on blockchain powered gambling solutions are doing. Instead of just using cryptocurrencies as a funding method/payment option they are using the Ethereum network – leveraging its ability to run code on an infrastructure that is decentralized, trustless and cannot be altered or censored.
The above mentioned qualities are a perfect fit for gambling applications since at the core of the FunFair platform is the idea of encapsulating the code powering the game’s logic into a smart contract deployed on the public Ethereum blockchain. This revolutionary idea negates the necessity of having a dedicated RGS (Remote Gaming Server) to host the games; RGS is industry jargon to define a black box server (often located in a gambling friendly offshore jurisdiction) containing the code, Random Number Generator and other assets powering the games.
On its own, the usage of a smart contract would bring enormous benefits in terms of fairness and security, but would result in a pretty poor gaming experience due to the limitations inherent to Ethereum. In particular, the necessity to generate and broadcast a transaction for every player interaction and the time it takes for each transaction representing an action to be included in a block results in significant delays. A prime example of this kind of delay is a player placing a bet and the outcome of that bet being available and reflected in the game.
Fortunately FunFair devised a very clever solution to the usability challenges posed by running a game completely on-chain! In what is an industry first they managed to leverage State Channels to shift the bulk of the actions performed during a typical play session completely off-chain while still benefiting from the security, fairness and trustless elements provided by the Blockchain.
Fate Channels are a proprietary implementation of state channels, a bidirectional off-chain channel used to exchange data between two parties and making use of strong cryptography to sign transactions, attesting their validity and making them impossible to refute or contest later on. By combining Fate channels with reverse hash chains, FunFair is able to ensure the fairness of the games, committing a source of entropy used to power the RNG to the blockchain in an encrypted state when the game session is initiated. and allowing both parties to verify that source was in fact used during gameplay at the time of reveal when closing a game session.
This approach requires only two transactions to be broadcast on-chain, one to establish the fate channel and one to close it, allowing games to scale infinitely better than if they were purely on chain and can support a lot more concurrent players. By virtue of the methods used, cheating should be a rare if not impossible occurrence. Thanks to the smart contracts being published on the blockchain, if one of the parties involved detects cheating, it can challenge the state submitted by the other party and run everything on chain to settle the dispute.
This is an incredibly effective way to take advantage of blockchain and benefit from its strong security properties by using it as a “supreme court”of sorts, referring to it only when absolutely necessary as an arbitration mechanism to settle disputes.
At the core of the platform is the FUN ERC-20 token, designed to be a pure utility token powering the games and fueling growth in the ecosystem by serving as the unit to exchange value between operators, developers, affiliates and consumers.
Benefits for Operators…
The tech solutions pioneered by FunFair are extremely attractive for casino operators worldwide due to several factors:
Focus on creating a fair and transparent environment for the consumer
This is key to increase adoption and revenue streams by capturing the underserved market segment of gamblers who don’t currently trust online casinos because they’re not perceived as fair when compared to real world casinos. By catering to users who would not typically play online,operators adopting FunFair technologies can expect to achieve penetration in a traditionally hard to reach segment.
The ability to potentially lower operating costs significantly
Due to the use of the blockchain to host the game logic powering the games. A shift to FunFair would also reduce the need for infrastructure to host and manage games.
Achieving increased security by drastically reducing the Attack Surface presented by traditional gambling platforms
Again, thanks to shifting part of the core infrastructure onto blockchain.
A potential lower headcount needed to support operations
This gives a benefit in situations where a higher headcount can negatively impact regulatory compliance.
Demonstrate the commitment to offer industry leading security, fairness and strong consumer protection to regulators at a time where there is a renewed focus on these issues. Publicly auditable game code stored and executed in smart contracts would go a long way towards this.
This can be pushed to the point where it becomes economically and technically feasible for very small entities without a lot of resources to quickly and effectively deploy and bankroll casinos using the FunFair platform.
Reduce reliance on third parties
This includes entities such as payments processors, eliminating integration costs, fees and the possibility of lost revenue due to fraudulent chargebacks since cryptocurrency transaction are not reversible.
All of this is possible while offering strong benefits to players as well:
Removing the need to give a custodial role to the casino
By depositing funds in an account, all games are played directly from the users wallet, offering fine grained control on the amount a user wishes to bet and eliminating minimum funding requirements.
At the end of a play session the user can instantly cash out the funds to their own wallet
This eliminates the often opaque and contentious process of requesting a withdrawal which can be an extremely frustrating and overly complex endeavor incurring extra fees, especially if related to large sums requiring the approval of management.
Provably fair games that cannot cheat by design
Offering a best in class user experience while safeguarding the consumer.
Increased privacy due to the pseudonymous nature of the blockchain
Dependent on the KYC/AML requirements imposed by the specific casino operator.
Operators can offer better odds thanks to the cost savings enabled by the Funfair platform.
FunFair is well equipped to achieve their ambitious goals thanks to a top notch team comprising many highly skilled and well respected industry veterans occupying management and technical positions:
Jez San is a British technology entrepreneur and investor whose pioneering work in the field of real time 3D computer graphics led to being awarded the OBE for services to the computer games industry. Jez founded Argonaut Software in his teens and designed the first chip used to power 3D games including multi-million-selling Star Fox, Harry Potter and Croc. He also founded 3D online poker room PKR and microprocessor developer Arc International. Since 2013 Jez has been an active investor in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sector. His investments include Google’s DeepMind and online cryptocurrency exchange Kraken.
David has more than 20 years’ experience in E-Commerce related organisations. In his role as COO, David is responsible for leading the business development, strategy, operations, finance and corporate functions.
With extensive leadership experience in Digital marketing and E-commerce international companies, David specialises in leading business integration and transformation programmes.
Prior to his current position David was Director of International for William Hill PLC, reporting to the board on market expansion, regulation and strategic change management programs.
During his 15 years of experience, James has occupied a number of C-level operations and compliance roles in both early stage and more established online gambling businesses, particularly but not exclusively, in the online casino and bingo verticals. He holds a Personal Management License issued by UK Gambling Commission and has been a key individual with a number of other gambling regulators including the Alderney Gambling Control Commission and the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
Over 15 years’ experience managing technology teams – from the development of advanced video-game software through to the deployment and operation of enterprise-scale infrastructure.
Oliver Hopton is an experience developer and team lead with over 15 years experience building gaming products. He spent 10 years working at online poker room PKR as Software Development Manager working on a huge variety of administration tools and integrations with 3rd party gaming content and providers. Heavily involved in technical compliance for gaming license applications in Guernsey, the UK, France, Italy and Denmark.
He then spent 18 months as CTO of EveryFan, responsible for architecting and building a UK facing sports betting product.
FunFair is poised to achieve its stated goal of disrupting the online gambling industry and initiate a drastic shift in the sector, pushing major players toward offering stronger consumer protections and an increased focus on transparency and fairness.
By on-boarding established third party developers to create games for the platform, they will be able to achieve the critical mass needed to propel growth in the space to new heights as well as generating substantial interest from titans of industry. The team has demonstrated to be nimble and effective in navigating the current complex regulatory environment affecting their project and the unique challenges posed by being at the intersection of gambling and blockchain.
Even if the regulatory headwinds were to intensify in the near future, I remain confident in the team’s ability to make strategic decisions to comply with the various legal frameworks governing the space.
To conclude, I consider Funfair one of the few projects in the space that warrants special attention and could be a rewarding play for token holders in the long term.