With Malta dubbed the ‘blockchain island,’ and with the country also being the host nation of AIBC, the annual blockchain summit, (when it isn’t locked down), the recent prominence of Bitcoin has no doubt caught the attention of the Maltese population. One such member of the populace is SiGMA founder Eman Pulis, who is most definitely a blockchain, crypto and Bitcoin proponent. With the recent surge in Bitcoin prices certainly gauging his interest, Gambling Insider caught up with Pulis to talk all things Malta and blockchain. Discussing everything from Elon Musk to specific uses for crypto in gaming, Pulis tells us why blockchain and crypto are back on the table for mainstream discussion in 2021. Although he himself is a big crypto supporter, Pulis give an honest account of the current state of play, including the admission many remain skeptical about blockchain. Retail banks, says Pulis, remain some of the most high-profile skeptics to date…
Is Malta still living up to its reputation of being the blockchain island?
Malta has certainly established itself as one of the more progressive countries when it comes to crypto and blockchain regulation. The island is still at the forefront of crypto regulation, with it being one of the first countries to regulate the cryptocurrency business. There was also a previous issue regarding regulatory clarity, which has been rectified recently. So much so that in November 2020, Crypto.com became the first cryptocurrency platforms to receive in-principal approval by the crypto regulatory body – the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA). However, there is still an issue regarding the banks, with few retail banks showing the willingness to work with crypto firms here in Malta. Banks have written off cryptocurrency in its early stages but with the constant rise in value of Bitcoin and other cryptos, it may be a matter of time before they jump on board. Especially when huge corporations are backing this sort of business, like we have seen with Tesla and even Goldman Sachs relaunching its Bitcoin trade desk.
With the price of Bitcoin recently soaring, are cryptocurrencies growing at the rate proponents predicted several years ago?
Many Bitcoin advocates were certain that cryptocurrencies would eventually reach high value while others were very skeptical due to its volatility, and are still skeptical to today. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have certainly surprised even their biggest supporters with their sudden rise in value. Many experts thought that Bitcoin would have reached the $35,000 mark when instead it shot up to $50,000, a pleasant surprise to say the least.
However, there is still room for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to grow and with many financial institutions backing these digital assets as well as companies like Tesla, it will only be a matter of time until cryptocurrencies will be used in everyday life. I look forward to seeing the price of cryptocurrencies in another 10 years – hopefully there will be more surprises along the way.
How helpful is having a big name like Elon Musk behind the idea, constantly promoting it in the mainstream?
Nowadays for something to take off it is almost essential to enter the mainstream. Having companies like Tesla, Goldman Sachs, Ruffier and PayPal all backing cryptocurrencies gives confidence to those people who are unsure whether to invest in them or not, giving them that little push they need. Elon Musk and other big influencers will certainly help with crypto-adoption and, as we saw this year, they are capable of influencing the price of cryptocurrencies too.
Within gaming itself, the impression Gambling Insider had is that crypto was a big deal a couple of years ago but it has actually quietened down now. Would you disagree with this view?
Bitcoin was always hovering around but exploded in 2020. The online gambling industry is becoming revolutionised with this technology nowadays, turning the industry on its head. The gaming industry is experiencing a rise in Bitcoin deposits and withdrawals in online casinos, with many companies integrating crypto into their systems. Crypto was a big deal a couple of years ago but it is a bigger deal now.
What specific examples of crypto growth and adoption have you seen within gaming?
From crypto loot boxes to digital collectibles (NBA TopShot), the variety of new crypto products within gaming is astonishing. Digital collectibles and NFTs such as NBA Top Shot are set to take crypto adoption to the next level, with other major sports leagues set to join in on the fun – there are talks of UFC, NFL and MLB implementing this new “moments” collectible platform.
Crypto loot boxes are also an innovative new invention, with more information on that in our next Block magazine issue. There is an important role for blockchain technology in a regulated gaming market, especially with the ease at which customers are able to deposit and withdraw gambling funds compared to banking options.
Do you have any personal plans and targets when it comes to using cryptocurrency?
AIBC is always interested in exploring new markets and learning more about an already-thriving industry. Through our conferences, events and news page, AIBC is constantly up-to-date with the crypto and blockchain industry but there is always room for more when it comes to education. AIBC strives to be at the top when it comes to crypto and blockchain and our events certainly put us in the position to be at the forefront of this industry.
If you could single out the one main advantage of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, what would it be?
There are numerous advantages when it comes to blockchain technology and cryptocurrency but the main advantage could possibly be that it is decentralised. Why? It provides a greater and fairer service. It also provides a trustless environment – you do not need to know anyone within the industry as every member within the network will have the same copy of data through a distributed ledger.
If a ledger is manipulated in any way it will be rejected. So this decentralized environment also brings about high levels of security. This takes the power away from authorities and centralised networks and, therefore, gives the power back to the people.