Bitcoin has revolutionised online betting due to the speed, anonymity and ease of use it offers anyone completing online transactions. It cuts out the middleman and eliminates the need for handling fees and bank charges, while allowing the sportsbooks to offer sharper lines for their customers. Withdrawals are a lot more rapid, meaning bettors are no longer forced to wait for days or even weeks to receive their money. The anonymity is great, because it means punters can play at any site in the world, as bitcoin is a global currency that transcends international boundaries.
The list of positives goes on and on. You do not have to worry about identity theft and credit card fraud, as you no longer need to input personal details on web forms. You cannot be banned from a site for being too successful if you do not provide personal details. You can bet on sports using bitcoin at all the major betting sites and several bitcoin-only sportsbooks and online casinos have been launched too, so there is plenty of choice. It heralds a return to the golden age of online wagering for many bettors, but now bitcoin could have an intriguing rival.
Right now it is by far and away the biggest cryptocurrency, but tech giant Facebook is preparing to launch a challenger in its Libra coin. It has dominated the news agenda over the past couple of weeks and led to furious debate online. Some have called Libra a cynical ploy from a large enterprise to control the crypto market, while others see it as the move that will bring crypto into the mainstream.
It will be designed to move money around on Facebook’s wildly popular instant messaging service WhatsApp. The initial focus will be on India, which has 400 million WhatsApp users, and the plan is to then roll it out around the world. Facebook formally announced Libra last month and unveiled its whitepaper, with a launch due in 2020. Two billion people around the world do not have a bank account, and Facebook aims to cater to this untapped market with the launch of Libra. Most of them are in Asia, and that is why India is the initial focus.
“The advent of the internet and mobile broadband has empowered billions of people globally to have access to the world’s knowledge and information, high-fidelity communications, and a wide range of lower-cost, more convenient services,” said the Libra whitepaper. “These services are now accessible using a $40 smartphone from almost anywhere in the world.”
However, it has hit a snag. The U.S. House of Representatives has written to Facebook and its partners asking them to immediately agree to a moratorium on the development of Libra and its dedicated Calibra wallet. The committee claims that the project may create “an entirely new global financial system that is based out of Switzerland and intended to rival U.S. monetary policy and the dollar”. It warned that raises serious privacy, trading, national security, and monetary policy concerns for not only Facebook’s more than 2 billion users, but also for investors, consumers, and the broader global economy.
Facebook’s David Marcus will have to testify before the committee later this month and it will be fascinating to see how that unfolds. Libra is intended as a stablecoin hybrid digital currency, halfway between a fiat currency like the dollar and a token like bitcoin or Ripple. It with be a security under the SEC jurisdiction and it will not be decentralized like bitcoin. It could easily usurp the likes of Ripple, but it is unlikely to totally see off bitcoin.
BTC has risen to prominence in an era where mistrust of Facebook is already rife. The anonymity aspect goes out of the window, as Facebook is all about mining personal data and selling ads. There is little that is anonymous about using its platforms. It would bring a bit of the speed associated with bitcoin transactions, but it is not intended as a decentralized currency that can easily skirt over international boundaries like bitcoin. It may become a convenient mechanism between fiat currencies and tokens, and bring crypto into mainstream retail, but bitcoin’s place in the hearts of sports bettors looks safe for now.