Gambling is becoming a primary use case for the Tron blockchain, new data shows.
Revealed exclusively to CoinDesk by analytics firm Dapp Review, dapps on the tron network facilitated $1.6 billion in activity in the first quarter of 2019, with more than 432,000 estimated users. In total, 64 percent of dapps on the tron network now facilitate gambling, the study said.
These days, tron gambling apps range from digital dog racing to a “farm investment game” that promises players up to 100 times their initial token investment.
On the strength of such games, tron dapp volume surged to a new high in March 2019, according to Dapp Review’s data, with more than $102 million worth of transactions on March 15 alone – compared to roughly $16 million worth of volume the same day on EOS dapps and just under $4 million in daily volume on ethereum dapps.
Stepping back, Tron became independent from ethereum in June 2018 after the namesake Tron Foundation ran a $70 million token sale in 2017. Dapp Review CEO Vincent Niu told CoinDesk that EOS – another ethereum-inspired blockchain that also went live in June 2018 – surpassed ethereum when gamblers deterred by ethereum’s high fees flocked to EOS in late 2018.
The tron community took notice and began courting ethereum developers as well.
“In October 2018, we were contacted by representatives from the tron network and they asked us to participate in their accelerator,” Moscow-based Ruslan Marinov, founder of the casino dapp 888tron, told CoinDesk.
Tron gained its market advantage thanks to the popularity of such online gambling sites, Niu said.
Dapp Review’s Q1 2019 report estimates that 27 percent of tron dapps are casino games, with another 36 percent deemed “high risk” gambling games. The report found that just 37 percent of ethereum dapps that fall into both categories combined. (“High risk” gambling involves very little gameplay and a smart contract that determines payouts.)
Daily volume on Tron (yellow), EOS (green) and Ethereum (blue). (Chart courtesy of Dapp Review)
Tron founder Justin Sun, in particular, has been a catalyst to the growth of this sector.
Although the Tron Foundation released a statement in March discouraging unlawful gambling dapps in Japan, the founders of several global gambling dapps told CoinDesk they received $10,000 or more worth of the stablecoin Tether as rewards for building their games for the Tron Accelerator hackathon in December 2018.
According to a Tron spokesperson, those funds came from Sun’s personal accounts and not the company itself.
It’s unclear how involved the Tron Foundation is in financially bolstering this gambling sector, beyond listing the games on the company’s official websites. A Tron spokesperson declined to comment on dapp gambling. We will update the story if we hear back.
“The blockchain itself brings a lot of freedom to people from, for example, China,” 888tron’s Marinov said. “By using a VPN they can gamble or use many other services.”
While developers across the ecosystem continue to make gambling portals on many blockchains, Sun’s recruiting strategy appears to have been particularly effective.
Dapp categories on the Tron network. (Chart courtesy of Dapp Review)
According to data provided to CoinDesk by the blockchain analytics firm Flipside Crypto, the price of tron tokens surged in early January, when these gambling dapps launched, and developer contributions have remained stable ever since.
However, Dapp Review’s Niu was less optimistic regarding overall engagement.
“Actually most of the users are just fake accounts,” he said. “If you look to the future, I’d say ethereum has more potential because a lot of people are working on token standards and other infrastructures.”
That said, Niu told CoinDesk dapp transaction data suggests some players are merely using dapps to get tokens, especially in jurisdictions that forbid purchasing tron with fiat.
On the other hand, EOS advocate and Sense CTO Ben Sigman told CoinDesk:
“People whose businesses and services are limited by governments are going to seek new areas to expand to where those limitations and laws aren’t present yet. That’s why gambling was a big part of the early internet too.”
Niu said it’s still difficult for open-source developers to monetize their contributions to the blockchain ecosystem. Gambling dapps provide a conduit for such earnings, he said.
Marinov, for example, leads a team of 15 contributors. His token-fueled casino has an average of 1,500 daily users, which solely identify themselves with crypto wallet addresses. 888tron players bet TRX tokens and receive dapp dividend tokens for each bet, of which Marinov says $9 million worth of TRX dividends have already been paid out in the three months since launch.
“We have plans to organize a company, to set up an entity with the necessary licenses, all the legal stuff, starting in July of this year,” Marinov said. “We are investigating the best jurisdiction.”
Overall, Marinov estimated $300 million worth of TRX passed through the 888tron dapp alone.
In return, offering these developers prize money pays off tenfold for the Tron Foundation. Players cashing out 888tron dapp tokens contributed significant volume to the March 15 spike in tron dapp volume.
“Blockchain is the best solution for gambling and for gaming,” Marinov said. “Tron is a great blockchain. We were actually choosing from three blockchains, ethereum, EOS and tron. … They [the Tron Foundation] supports developers.”
Roulette image via Shutterstock