Cards on the table

FunFair’s first blockchain casino, which opened this week, promises crypto gamblers a fairly good time.

Finally, a place for gamblers and crypto junkies to convivir, er, fairly.

FunFair, a blockchain-based platform for the online casino industry, has launched its very first virtual gambling den: CasinoFair. The casino—which just went live on Tuesdaycalls itself “Famous for Fairness,” and FunFair has dubbed it the “world’s first, truly fair blockchain casino.” In case it isn’t abundantly clear by this point, “fair” is the operative word at FunFair.

Indeed, Funfair, a Dublin, Ireland-based B2B company that provides an Ethereum-powered platform, says that blockchain ensures “low cost, high quality, transparent casino experiences that are provably fair.” Which, you have to admit, is a fairly new concept within the online gambling world. It takes a special kind of risk taker to lay real money down on a game that could be digitally rigged, after all.

But in a “provably fair” environment gamblers are able to analyze and verify the game’s algorithm and make sure it’s on the up and up. It’s like laying your six-shooter down on the card table and demanding to see what’s underneath your dealer’s sleeves—only with Ethereum smart contracts instead.

The company says its use of Ethereum gives its platform “unrivaled transparency.” The games are “cheat proof” because absolutely everything runs on a smart contract, claims Jez San, FunFair’s CEO and cofounder. Each game, from blackjack to roulette, runs on its own smart contract. Numbers generation? Smart contract. Player deposits? Smart contract. Payouts? You guessed it, smart contract.

“We use a system of hash chains to prove not only that each random number was generated jointly by both player and casino devices,” says San, “but also that they’re delivered in the correct order to prevent out of order selective use of random numbers to favor the casino.”

And to sweeten the pot, CasinoFair never holds any of the dough. All player funds are held in escrow—off-chain—and then paid out to the winner (player or house) “immediately when the game is done,” he says. Seems fair enough, but is it fun?

You can pump your crypto wallets full of ERC20 FUN tokens, make your way to the FunDice table, and find out yourself—but only if you’re in Canada, Switzerland, Finland, or Norway for now.

While FunFair says its decentralized platform ensures that everything runs “exactly as programmed, without any chance of fraud, censorship or third-party interference,” that doesn’t necessarily mean no “interference” from the lawmen patrolling ye olde blockchain saloon.

“Blockchains don’t overturn laws and regulations or permit you to ignore them,” says the FunFair CEO. “CasinoFair launched [Tuesday] in the first four countries, because we do [Know Your Customer] in each country, and our partners who do government ID and address look-ups need time to get new countries on their system.” San says the Internet is riddled with illegal online casinos—the kind run by anonymous teams behind pseudonyms who turn a blind eye to money laundering and underage gambling. But, he vows, FunFair is intent on staying on the “right side of the law, even if it’s not always a popular decision.”

CasinoFair received its gaming license from the government of Curacao, and while the casino will remain restricted to those chosen few jurisdictions for the time being, San says he expects to open up shop in “several new countries each month [until] we’ve covered all the ones that our lawyers let us do.” The United States, being the “complex” federal republic that it is, may have to wait a long time, he says.

So it all sounds fairly fun and, er, funly fair, but we know what you’re thinking: Didn’t the Ethereum network go bust under the weight of a few collectible kitties? How’s it possibly going to handle the kind of action I’ll be throwing down when the casino rolls into my town?

Fear not, dear fiends: FunFair’s “Fate Channels” have got you covered.

Fate Channels are FunFair’s propriety mashup of Ethereum’s state-channel technology. It’s what allows most player transactions to occur off-chain, circumventing the blockchain’s pesky scalability and volume limitations and letting you keep that lucky streak going ’til you’ve had all the FUN you can handle. Says San: “It works great, and makes games fun, fast and fair. And cheat proof.” That’ll be a first, in Cryptoland.