When I was a kid, my parents made the ultimate bet.
Speaking no English, they left their home in a small village in rural China to start a new life in America. Like other immigrants in our neighborhood, they built businesses and raised families.
Now the son they brought with them as kids is making another big bet: I can fundamentally disrupt the way $61 billion the global online gambling industry operates.
Online gambling, of course, has proven extremely popular. But it continued to operate on the same rails as betting has always done in the real world, that is, heavily weighted in favor of the casino. We have been trained to accept that “the house always wins”.
Predatory marketing tactics target players known to be vulnerable. Withdrawal deadlines are not disputed. All of this, combined with zero transparency, means the traditional game model has always been rigged against the player. If a lucky $10 bet wins big, say $10,000, there will often be limits on how much the house will allow you to withdraw. They are happy to take the money, but when the players are successful they may not be so happy to give people what they have won.
It is fundamentally unfair.
I would go so far as to point out the similarities between the traditional casino model and “Ponzi schemes”, in that both operate on the basis of investments by people who are promised returns that cannot be reliably paid out if insufficient amounts have been invested in the first place. Casinos are always expecting new funds to arrive. And when they can’t pay, they hold on. In this unilateral model, the House always has the advantage.
The system didn’t implode for the bigger ones with more resources. But for the little ones, it is often the case. It is not regulated, there is no control. If they don’t have enough funds to pay what they owe, they quietly disappear. We need to level the playing field.
The advent of blockchain technologies has allowed us to innovate on an archaic industry. Web3 has helped create a frictionless experience that can finally deliver guaranteed payouts with instant settlements. The evolution of DeFi (decentralized finance) gave rise to the concept of Divvy, which allows any individual to be the House and receive a direct share of the profits. It sounds radical, but this new technology empowers people on both sides of the bet.
This integration of DeFi and gaming creates a decentralized marketplace that will put power in the hands of gamers. It can provide 100% transparency, with every transaction being broadcast publicly on the blockchain. This means players will always know how much is in the house, while immutable and traceable smart contracts mean no more scams from dodgy operators.
Throwing divvy.betI am determined to turn the industry on its side, changing the mindset of how it can operate.
Although I am not a big gambler myself, I like to bet occasionally like many other people. For me, it adds to the entertainment of watching NBA and NFL games. There’s more adrenaline, you get skin in the game. It’s a calculated risk, and it brings excitement.
I became an entrepreneur for the same reasons. Given my family history, it could be in the blood. I remember growing up in Brooklyn surrounded by a community of other immigrant families. They may not all have been able to speak English, but they managed to run successful businesses. Maybe a restaurant, or doing people’s laundry, or their lawns.
It taught me a lot – that you can take that determination and hard work and turn it into something beautiful. Take care of your family and give them new opportunities. My parents certainly gave us the best resources. I got a place at the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in New York, which in turn opened doors for me to attend some of the best universities in the world. I learned that I could take control of my own life. And I learned that I don’t like limits.
A career in finance brought more valuable experience. As a fund accountant, I was responsible for doing the calculations and making sure that the funds of the wealthy were where they were supposed to be and were being accounted for. And it was while doing this one day that I had a revelation. Why was I working so hard for someone else’s benefit?
That lightbulb moment made me realize that I had to invest my time and effort in a project that I could truly believe in. The game struck me as the obvious industry to disrupt, bringing the challenge of taking on established incumbents.
Maybe I have a higher risk tolerance than some. It has certainly been pointed out to me that we will not be popular in certain circles. I think we are all aware that the legacy gaming industry has ties to organized crime and money laundering.
I was asked if I was afraid of being a target. My answer is: if they want to come and break my legs, then I’m doing something right.
I actually think that’s a good problem to have.
But, yes, I think they will come knocking.
In the meantime, we are working hard to make this new paradigm the means by which everyone can bet on anything. In five years, we see it absolutely synonymous with online betting. We need to overturn the mantra that the House always wins. That there is no choice but to take the ratings that the Chamber statisticians give you.
I guess we have to prove that in business, as in life, it’s worth taking a bet.
And refuse to accept the chances you are given.
Carlos Liang is the CEO of Divvy, a decentralized betting platform allowing users to “be home”.