ZenSports is shifting its focus today by launching a new peer-to-peer sports betting marketplace where anyone can create and accept sports bets with anyone else in the world, without the need for a centralized bookmaker. Users generate their own bets and content, and ZenSports is the marketplace that brings both Makers and Takers of bets together.
According to ZenSports Co-Founder & CEO, Mark Thomas, there are a lot of problems with traditional sports bookmakers that ZenSports is now solving for with this new product. "Traditional bookmakers only make money when you lose because they're always on the other side of the bet," says Thomas. "So they naturally always stack the odds and terms in their favor. Plus, they only offer certain kinds of bets because they have limited technologies and underwriting capabilities to offer all types of bets both before and during a game. With ZenSports, you're in full control of which bets you want to create and on which terms. And if you prefer to just accept bets that others have created, that's fine, too. ZenSports does not create bets or provide bookmaking services of any kind. Users generate their own content and their own sports bets. Bets are never affiliated with or provided by ZenSports in any way."
Here's how ZenSports peer-to-peer sports betting works:
Anyone can create any kind of sports bet that they want with their own odds, payout, and wager amount. Those bet creators are called Makers.
Anyone that accepts a Maker's bet is called a Taker. Takers can accept the entire bet from a Maker or just part of a bet if they want to wager less than what the Maker is offering.
When the bet is over, the Maker submits the results of the bet outcome. To prevent a Maker from submitting false results, Makers have an escrow fee equivalent to 10% of their bet set aside in case of a dispute by the Taker.
If the Taker disputes the Maker's submitted results, they have an escrow fee equivalent to 5% of their bet aside (to prevent the Taker from submitting false disputes).
If a dispute is submitted, it goes to the marketplace for a vote. The marketplace is incentivized to vote correctly because they will receive half of the losing party's escrow amount if they vote along with the majority of voters. The prevailing party in the dispute receives a refund of their full escrow fee, along with half of the losing party's escrow fee. All bet winnings are paid out accordingly.
The goal, according to Thomas, is to create a fully decentralized sports betting marketplace where no centralized sports book is necessary to create or manage bets. "We think of ZenSports as being more like a trading platform where there are Makers and Takers that are controlling for themselves the price that they want to buy and sell at. The trading platform is just a matchmaking service bringing both parties together. ZenSports is doing the exact same thing, bringing together and matching up bettors from both sides of a bet. There's no reason for some centralized bookmaker to control every aspect of the betting process. We feel our format is much more user friendly."
ZenSports is initially launching its sports betting app everywhere except the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia. The company is currently working on the legal requirements to begin operating in those jurisdictions. Users in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia can still access its previous recreational sports product.
Coming soon: Cryptocurrency and Smart Contracts Integration
There are several other payment and funding issues with traditional bookmakers, which ZenSports will be solving for in the future as well (but which are not part of this launch). Despite the fact that it's perfectly legal for people to bet on sports, both online and in land-based sportsbooks, many banks refuse to fund gaming accounts through credit cards or wire transfers. This makes funding betting accounts a complicated and arduous task. Even when banks do allow their customers to fund betting accounts, there's often a lag of 1-5 days before the funds are made available, and there are fees associated with credit card payments or wire transfers.
ZenSports will attempt to solve for all of these payment, funding, and payout issues by integrating cryptocurrencies and smart contracts into its app. Bettors may be able to fund their accounts, place bets, pay commissions, and cash out their winnings via cryptocurrencies.
There's also the trust issue that bookmakers won't run off with customers' funds. "Traditional online sports books haven't proven to be trustworthy institutions when it comes to handling people's money," says Thomas. "There have been numerous cases of sports books stealing money, not paying out bets when they're supposed to, etc. And there's absolutely no recourse for users when that happens. With what ZenSports is building, we hope to improve bettors confidence that they can move money into and out of their ZenSports account efficiently, quickly, and without a middleman getting involved."
All of the interactions between bettors and the ZenSports app are anticipated to be handled through smart contracts built on ICON's blockchain, so as to further prevent any centralized party from accessing betting funds or doing anything nefarious with those funds. All transactions are anticipated to be recorded on ICON's blockchain, which has been known to be fair and verifiable. This aims to give bettors a cheaper, faster, and more trustworthy process for wagering on sports than traditional online sportsbooks offer.
"We anticipate ZenSports to be viewed as a fair brand that all sports bettors can trust because we can't be in the middle of a transaction even if we wanted to, and all transactions are verifiable on the blockchain," said Thomas.
ZenSports plans on integrating cryptocurrencies and smart contracts by Q1 2019. In the meantime, users can deposit funds via credit card, wire transfer, or cashier's check.
ZenSports is available for download in both the App and Google Play Stores.