22 June, 2022
How crypto will keep affecting gaming
Questions around cryptocurrency and blockchain continue to grow although the platform has been around for some time. Its potential volatility leaves many with more questions than answers, especially tribes
At IGA 2022, a panel we were fortunate enough to attend, spoke on how cryptocurrency will continue to affect the gaming market. In some ways, this can be in a positive direction. However, answering all of the questions surrounding cryptocurrencies can’t be answered in a single panel.
Moderating was Jesse A. Robles, the Managing Editor of Pechanga.net. Robles did a fantastic job navigating the panel and asked each of the panelist members stimulating questions.
The panelists included Victor Newsom, the Vice President of Product Management & Payment Solutions at Everi. Joining him was Dawson Her Many Horses, Senior Vice President, Head of Native American Banking – Commercial Banking, Wells Fargo, and Mahrinah Shije, Partner, Zia Impact.
After introductions, Robles went on to briefly explain what blockchain actually is and how it works. He explained the structure of a blockchain, including “nodes” and the decentralised nature of the platform.
Robles also explained how Bitcoin’s dominance over the cryptocurrency market is currently 41.14% (as of April 20), an increase of .15% over the day. Although Bitcoin is easily the most popular and most used form of cryptocurrency, other coins were brought up as well.
Perhaps one of the most interesting inclusions into the conversation was stablecoins. Stablecoins present an interesting opportunity for casinos since it’s tied to a currency like the US dollar or to a commodity’s price such as gold.
Another topic of conversation was how cryptocurrency can positively affect tribal casinos. Mahrinah Shije commented on how crypto ethics weigh heavily on tribes, but tribes are not privy to cyber sovereignty.
In mentioning ethics, Shije noted that: “There are a lot of challenges to the fact that these are emerging markets.” She continued: “We aren’t the ones who are creating the cryptocurrencies, we aren’t creating industry, we aren’t big investors in the industry, just yet.”
Ethics weigh heavily in tribal communities according to Shije, which would first need to be addressed. This could result in tribes creating their own form of cryptocurrency; they can control and regulate.
With a focus on tribal infrastructure development, Shije understands that cryptocurrency can help build an economy within tribes. An example of this was how a Navajo tribe leased its land and provided energy to a bitcoin mining facility.
Dawson Her Many Horses spoke to the banks’ inability to “be there” for tribal communities. Wells Fargo launched a banking-inclusion initiative to remedy this problem. He continued to note that “according to the FDIC in 2019 tribal communities held the highest percentage of unbanked communities of all diverse segments.”
Continuing, Dawson stated that tribal communities also have limited access to broadband and that access is declining. With more of a reliance on the internet and fewer physical locations, access for rural customers will continue to be a topic of conversation.
Victor Newsome noted how stablecoin could be a solution and used the Helium project as an example.
If you’re unfamiliar the project itself provides a distributed non-regulatory regime-based means of getting access to individuals while earning at the same time.
He doubled down stating: “There’s a lot more here than just a casino option that Everi is bringing to you.” Still, casinos have begun to implement crypto ATMs where people can access their assets and use them for other purchases.
Tribal casinos could potentially use this as a way to begin the process of cryptocurrency implementation. However, security is a primary concern due to the implications of these transactions.
Continuing, Newsome said: “What I’m seeing happening is that the evolution of the crypto space is almost overtaking the concept of e-money in a casino environment.”
Newsome also went on to note how there is a “right way and a wrong way” to introduce cryptocurrency into a casino space. Regulations would need to be put in place to ensure the funds are “clean” and blocks can be put in place to guarantee it.
In regards to security issues this could pose to tribes, Dawson Her Many Horses stated: “The finance folks that we speak to tend to be cautious. A lot of tribes have investment policy statements and things that guide how they spend their money. I think people have an open mind, but people are cautious.”
In closing, the group was asked why people should care about how cryptocurrency can affect tribal gaming. Each answer was informational, but Mahrinah Shije provided an answer that tribes should consider.
Shije said: “We [tribes] have the capacity to include our value system and influence where those regulations go in the future.”
With more cryptocurrencies being created each day, expect to see a stablecoin option from tribes in the near future.