The metaverse is beginning to grasp a foothold in different industries around the world and the gambling industry is no different.
In a fireside chat at SBC Summit Barcelona, Stefan Kovach, CEO & Founder of Rarerthings spoke to James Ashton, CEO of Vegas City – which is the largest gaming district in Decentraland specifically designed for the gambling industry – about gambling’s place in the metaverse.
Kovach and Ashton discussed what’s possible to build, who’s currently operating there, who are the users, and what the future of gambling in the metaverse looks like.
Vegas City creation
Ashton began by providing some background information on Decentraland and Vegas City. Decentraland is a virtual world that consists of 90,000, 16×16 individually owned NFT land parcels, and only the owner of the land parcel can determine what is going to be built onto the land. Land parcels can be combined to build much larger structures.
Conceived in the minting event of Decentraland in December 2017, Vegas City is roughly 6000 parcels, which equates to around 1.5km by 1.5km, and it is divided into four sections – sport, entertainment, experience, and casino. Vegas City is also a production studio, creating non-gambling experiences for Decentraland.
Kovach then asked Ashton what’s the difference between a centralized and a decentralized metaverse from an operator and a consumer standpoint, to which the Vegas City CEO replied its “sovereignty over your investment”.
He said: “If you take something like the precursor to web3 and decentralized metaverses, I suppose Second Life is the thing that kind of existed before things like Decentraland, and once upon a time, many, many moons ago, they were real money casinos in Second Life.
“Then Linden Lab decided, through for whatever reasoning, that wasn’t the route they were going to go down, so they shut up shop and all of those casinos, all of that money that had been invested into that, had to be repurposed. There was no more gambling in Second Life, and the best you could do was games of skill.
“A decentralized metaverse, like Decentraland, is really owned by its users and its direction is determined by its users. As an investment, you haven’t got an umbrella organization above you are calling the shots.”
The Vegas City CEO further explained that a metaverse’s land parcel with a casino application is similar to a contract for a plot of land with a casino on it in the real world for operators. For consumers, it’s all about ownership, as items that you earn from games, such as NFTs, can be traded.
Gambling in Vegas City
In terms of gambling, Ashton notes that casinos and sportsbooks inside Decentraland are 3D fronts using standard web tech and protocols to create a seamless experience for the user by associating their wallet address with an existing account and verifying them.
New options are becoming available in Vegas City, such as racing NFT horses or participating in big events celebrating sports tournaments such as the Australian Open and winning tradable NFTs. Ashton believes more sports organizations will be following the likes of La Liga and the NBA in joining the metaverse soon but it’s still very early days.
The gaming district also features Ice Poker, which Ashton defines as a “members poker game whereby you have to purchase an NFT to participate” called an Ice Wearable, and the more wearables you have, the more bonus benefits you get. These wearables can also be delegated to other players, and then you get a cut of their winnings.
Some are even earning a living off Ice Poker, but the Vegas City CEO described the game as “play-to-earn” and not gambling, although he says this definition is up for debate.
“They call it play-to-earn, and they say it isn’t gambling. It’s questionable. I’m on the fence. Just to be clear, Vegas City’s position in all of this is we are like City Hall. We are not a gambling operator. Our role is to keep everything in Vegas City on the straight and narrow, to be a trusted area in the metaverse.
“On something like ‘Is ice poker or gambling or not?’, my common sense says probably. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. A game of poker, it’s hard to say that poker isn’t gambling if there’s a prize at the end of it. I think there’s a lot of challenges for the regulators there because it gets very very murky.”
Real-world Vegas in the metaverse?
As for if the real-world Vegas will be recreated in the metaverse soon, Ashton said: “I think one angle on it will be that, but I also think that on top of that, there’ll be this whole gamification layer. And I think there’ll be alliances of people joining up experiences.
“So just imagine a night on town in the metaverse, you might choose things which are related to the assets you have in your wallet, there may be a membership token that is supported across the different actual venues and that may membership token might give you access to different games and so on.
“I think on the surface, it will look a lot like Vegas, except it will look like what you’re expected a metaverse Vegas to be where things can float. You know, you enter a doorway, and then actually you’re looking down from the sky.”
Ashton continued: “We just built a headquarters for a very large corporation, and they wanted this glow in the middle of it which basically showed all of their offices around the world.
“If you jump into the globe, you then get teleported above the building, so you can look down on their headquarters and see that it’s formed into the shape of their logo. So that’s what you’re getting the metaverse, which you don’t get in Las Vegas.”