Interview with Lawyer, Notary and Certified Computer Scientist, Mr. Tal Itzhak Ron, and Financial Jurist and Regulation Advisor Ms. Stephanie Attias (from Tal Ron, Drihem & Co., Law Firm)
Advocate and Notary Tal Itzhak Ron (M.Sc.) – a General Member of International Masters of Gaming Law (IMGL), practicing i-Gaming and Financial Entertainment. Tal graduated from Haifa University School of Law (LL.B.) followed by the Faculty of Computer Science (B.Sc.), and while working as a software developer at a publicly-traded software company, Ness Technologies has further obtained a Master’s Degree in Computer Science from Bar Ilan University. Tal established Tal Ron, Drihem & Co., Law Firm back in 2003, focusing from the start on Hi Tech, Ad Tech, M&A, Financial Entertainment and iGaming industries, quickly becoming one of the first international firms practicing solely in these areas. Today, the firm advises world leading operators, platforms and governing bodies and is considered the first point of contact for entrepreneurs setting up businesses in the iGaming, Ad Tech and Mobile App industries.
ADVOCATE AND NOTARY TAL ITZHAK RON
Chairman and CEO
TAL RON, DRIHEM AND CO., LAW FIRM
(first name: tal itzhak, surname: ron)
MOBILE TELEPHONE: +972-52-2437484
Ms. Stephanie Attias (LL.M, LL.B) graduated from Fordham University School of Law (New York), with an LL.M in “Banking, Corporate and Finance Law”, and from the Faculty of Law in Nice (France) with a Master of Laws in “Business Law and Economics”, followed by a Master of Finance in “Financial Engineering” obtained with Magna Cum Laude Honors. After working at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in New York and in the prestigious law firm of Gide Loyrette Nouel, both in London and Paris, Stephanie joined Tal Ron Drihem & Co., Law Firm in 2012 as Head of Financial Law and Regulation, where she has been advising the top tier of Financial Technologies and Gaming Companies together with the firm’s CEO and Chairman, Tal Itzhak Ron. She is a sought-after speaker in events of the online gaming and finance industries, delivering presentations in major conferences in Israel and around the world.
Head of Financial Law and Regulation
TAL RON, DRIHEM AND CO., LAW FIRM
The main topic of this interview is the impact of Bitcoin and Blockchain on the gaming industry. As experts who have extensive practical knowledge of law, business and technology we are very curious what your opinion is in this question. Do you think this Bitcoin is a real breakthrough, a game-changer for the forex and gaming industry?
As the gaming industry gradually shifts from traditional offline media, to the multi-billion dollar online gaming industry, we are seeing an ocean of new possibilities. Indeed, the online gaming industry has seen the rise in digital payments, which have integrated crypto currencies in various payments and settlement aspects.
Overall, virtual currencies offer many positive influences on the gaming industry. First of all, they offer faster transactions at lower costs: users can transfer and receive funds within a couple hours without having to wait long traditional waiting periods. Secondly, psychological and economic impacts of virtual currencies may increase the wellbeing of gamers and the value of the gaming marketplace. This has similar consequences in the retail forex offerings.
Which are the benefits of using Bitcoin for internet merchants?
As stated previously, Bitcoins offer faster transactions with significantly lower fees than those charged for credit and debit card purchases. This is the biggest reason smaller merchants are starting to accept Bitcoin payments.
On another note, paying via Bitcoin protects users from divulging personally identifiable information (i.e. names, billing addresses, etc.), Bitcoin users enjoy a level of fraud prevention and identity-theft protection that credit cards can’t offer.
Finally, because Bitcoin purchases are final, there are no chargebacks and no returns, this saves a significant amount of money for merchants.
What factors should be considered before adding Bitcoin? What advice, suggestions could you give to gaming merchants to pay attention to?
Bitcoins are extremely volatile and the amount of risk involved in such fluctuating price movements should be considered before adding Bitcoin to your business model. Every Bitcoin user should carefully analyze the risk/reward ratio and decide if this is beneficial to their business model.
Are there any disadvantages in introducing this payout solution?
While technological advances have clearly increased innovation in the gaming industry, they have also increased problems for both developers and gamers, such as facilitated cyber-attacks and reduced the trust of players in the online gaming industry.
Introducing Bitcoins as a payout solution needs to be done with serious consideration before hand. It is important to keep in mind that Bitcoins are only accepted by a very small group of online merchants, and therefore it is unfeasible to use bitcoin as a unique currency. Furthermore, since Bitcoins do not have a physical form, they have to be converted to other currencies. Secondly, Bitcoin have extremely high fluctuations. As of June 2nd 2011, one Bitcoin was valued at $9.9 on a popular bitcoin exchange site, on August 2nd 2017 one Bitcoin was valued at more than $2,700, on August 13th 2017 Bitcoin surged to a new record high above $4,000. With such high fluctuations it is important to note that value for money can increase or decrease dramatically from one day to the other, and risk should be measured adequately. Indeed, since there is no central authority governing Bitcoins, no one can guarantee its minimum valuation.
Finally, it is important to note that since the Bitcoin system is fairly new, there could be risks of unknown technical flaws. This is risky in the sense that if a hard drive crashes, or the system is affected by a virus, the e-wallet file containing bitcoins will become corrupted and the Bitcoins will essentially be lost.
Do you think that Bitcoin will eliminate costly merchant chargebacks and fraudulent transfer reversals? Can these problems be solved with it?
In general credit card chargebacks occur when a card user disputes a transaction using a normal debit or credit card payment generally due to identity theft. This is partly due to the fact that the merchant gets all of the cardholder’s personal information in order to receive the money from the transaction.
Crypto currency transactions however are basically seen as cash transactions: purchases are final, there are no returns, no chargebacks due to the anonymity of crypto-currencies, and generally people buying in Bitcoin have no recourse in a dispute. This significantly reduces and even removes merchant chargebacks.
It is a fact that financial transparency across all industries is very important and particularly in the gaming sector. How will this new payment system contribute to this transparency?
Financial transparency in all sectors and especially in the gaming sector, is a must in order to restore the trust of online gamblers. Recently, gambling companies have started to use blockchain technology to increase transparency and assure users that they are incapable of knowing the result of an outcome in advance. Being a transaction system that doesn’t rely on any third party, blockchain enables gamers to connect directly with developers and compensate them for playing their games, thereby rendering the industry more transparent. Such technology has therefore completely decentralized the gambling industry by storing information on networks of personal computers and putting the verification of bets in the hands of technology. Players always control their own funds, from their personal blockchain wallet, without having to deal with any third party and this has eliminated trust issues in the gaming industry.
Could such technology be used on the legal side?
Eventually, we might also see an implementation of blockchain technology by regulators to facilitate regulation, reporting requirements, and make the gaming industry more transparent. Indeed, the use of blockchain technology will allow the automation of stringent KYC and AML procedures, partly by allowing the establishment of databases that will check to see if each player is using a device that matches who they say they are. This system will rely on geo-localisation and IP addresses, amongst other factors, to verify the player’s real identity. This could significantly speed up KYC procedures, allowing players to retrieve their winnings at a quicker rate.
Furthermore, transactions will not occur on the blockchain system until both the player’s identity and available funds have been verified. Therefore, players who have previously used blockchain to launder money, cheat, or hack, will be tracked and immediately banned from the platform in real-time. Such evidence of malicious behavior will then be recorded as publicly available evidence, enabling the automatic detection of red flags and the removal of such players from the blockchain system.
In some way, this automates compliance procedures to a certain extent as such a system will bring fraudulent transactions and illegal activities to light via blockchain, thereby encouraging a safe, compliant platform for both players and regulators.
Trend: Regulators around the world are already advocating the use of blockchain and we are starting to see new regulation and funding schemes to attract blockchain entities in Alderney, Isle of Man, and Malta, while other countries completely outlaw it such as Russia, China, and Thailand. We hope to see this trend continue in 2017 and 2018 to a larger extent.