Since the first online casinos opened in 1994, the online gambling industry has skyrocketed both in terms of revenue and popularity. The market size for online gambling soared to over USD 64 billion in 2020, largely thanks to COVID pandemic lockdowns, and is expected to grow to more than USD 72 billion in 2021 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.3%.

As could be expected, the rise of cryptocurrency also led to a proliferation of cryptocurrency gambling DApps, which have yet to capture much attention in the mainstream but are growing in popularity among cryptocurrency traders. As the vast majority of all DApps run on Ethereum, it should be no surprise that most available gambling DApps are Ethereum-based as well. But with its expensive gas fees and slow transaction times, Ethereum is quickly proving that it is not the ideal blockchain for many of these products — picking up the slack, other popular blockchains for gambling DApps include EOSIO, TRON, WAX, ThunderCore and ICON.

ICONbet is bringing back the brick-and-mortar casino feels

One drawback that both standard and blockchain-based gambling sites have is that players have to deposit funds to the platform in order to play the games. The process is akin to buying chips at a brick-and-mortar casino. However, unlike with buying physical chips that you can hold in your hand, once on-boarded to a gambling website a player’s funds are held and controlled by the online casino — not the player themself — until they cash out. Should that website suddenly get hacked or go down for whatever reason, those funds could potentially be lost.

But ICONbet, a popular online cryptocurrency casino based on the ICON blockchain, is different. Instead of requiring players to deposit currency into an account, the ICONbet DApp connects with the player’s ICX wallet and enables per-bet microtransactions paid directly in ICX.

“With ICONbet, you pay and get paid (or lose) instantly,” ICONbet team member Geo_Dude told The Iconist. “If the site ever goes down, no player funds are ever lost. Even if the treasury gets hacked, that’s not coming from anyone’s wallet. It’s literally like going to a real casino — you control the chips.

“ICONbet is the only cryptocurrency gambling DApp that has this feature, to my knowledge.”

Geo explained that ICONbet is able to accomplish this because their developers build every aspect of their games on the ICON blockchain. All other sites only use the blockchain to store results, performing all calculations off-chain, whereas ICONbet games perform every calculation on the ICON blockchain.

“Nobody else is doing this because it costs more to code unique games,” Geo explained. “Most sites have tons of slot games that they buy and plug in their site, but it’s not a personable experience. We don’t do that. On ICONbet, everything is one-of-a-kind.”

ZenSports: Sports and e-sports betting with ICX

For those who prefer sports betting over the casino experience, look no further than ZenSports. A major player in the ICON DApp ecosystem, ZenSports recently earned some major traction with the approval of a non-restricted gaming license in Nevada and has been attracting some impressive mainstream press coverage.

The ZenSports app also features e-sports betting, and the company is planning on soon spinning out a separate e-sports tournament management platform featuring an NFT marketplace for collectible game items.

ZenSports players can use ICX to place bets, as well as BTC, USD and the platform’s own token, SPORTS. A very wide range of sports and e-sports are available to bet on, with the most popular being the NFL, MLB, NBA and soccer.

If you’re curious how their app works, check out this helpful ZenSports tutorial video we made that shows the bet-placing process in detail.

Stakin Lossless Lottery: gambling without gambling

While there will always be a portion of the population willing to risk their money on games of chance, many are understandably more careful with their hard-earned money. However, recent blockchain innovations now make it possible for risk-averse people to enjoy the thrill of winning big bucks without having to put any money on the line at all.

The Stakin Lossless Lottery is a great way to do just that. Players buy lottery tickets — paid directly from their ICX wallets, as on ICONbet — via a smart contract that automatically stakes those ICX tokens on the ICON network. Staking rewards paid by ICON are collected into a pool that makes up the jackpot for a weekly draw. And the best part: players can reuse the same tickets week after week for a chance to win again and again, and even refund their tickets for full value whenever they want. It’s a truly lossless lottery.

“Games that pool funds together are a new revolution. It’s not gambling anymore — it’s saving,” said Stakin CEO and Co-Founder Edouard Lavidalle. “It’s really something that only blockchain enables. You get traditional gambling mechanics but with a trustless and permissionless approach. You don’t need to trust the owner of the platform — you can trust the smart contract.”

ICON: an ideal blockchain for fast, cheap transactions

The Iconist asked both ICONbet and ZenSports why they preferred to develop their DApps on ICON.

“One of the big advantages of ICON is the very small transaction fees,” Geo from ICONbet told us. “This allows players to not lose so much money when making microtransactions on individual bets. On Ethereum it doesn’t work as well, because every bet could cost you 50 dollars — which is why the Ethereum sites require you to purchase game tokens up front.”

He added, “Another factor is the quick transaction speeds. It’s possible to make multiple bets simultaneously — we once had a bot make five bets in a single block. On Ethereum you have to wait a whole minute per bet.”

ZenSports CEO Mark Thomas echoed Geo’s sentiments. “We love multiple things about developing on ICON: the technology is fast, the fees are cheap and the community is great. As an investor in ZenSports, ICON has also been a great partner for us.”

Not for the mainstream yet — but it’s coming

Cryptocurrency gambling is definitely gaining more and more traction as the crypto market grows. In fact, Geo revealed that ICONbet sees the most action during bear market periods, probably due to investors growing antsy waiting for their next trade. However, just as with cryptocurrency itself, it may be a while before crypto gambling DApps take off in the mainstream market.

This can be evidenced by the generally smallish prizes that are more common to cryptocurrency gambling sites. Standard online casinos regularly pay out big prizes to gamblers — the largest win to date was worth around USD 24 million. In contrast, the biggest win on ZenSports was a Superbowl bet worth 25 million SPORTS (nearly USD 1,500 at the time of writing) and Stakin’s highest jackpot was worth around ICX 2,000 (but that was with a bit of P-Rep sponsorship thrown in the pool).

ICONbet has seen relatively higher action, with one lucky player once winning ICX 28,000 from a ICX 10,000 roulette wager — which they somehow never lost once over a series of 80 consecutive spins. The biggest ratio win on the site was from a 2 ICX wager on Jungle Jackpot that paid out ICX 3,700. And in terms of liquidity, a single whale once wagered a total of 1.4 million ICX over the course of a whole day of gambling. But these high-rolling examples are definitely outliers, and still pale in comparison to the hefty traffic found on mainstream, non-blockchain gambling sites.

“People don’t trust cryptocurrency in general, so to trust gambling on the blockchain is actually a lot to ask,” Geo said. “But what they don’t realize is that it’s actually a safer option! Blockchain will eventually take over the online gambling industry and become the norm. It’s only a matter of time.”