In 2012, Paruyr Shahbazyan founded Bookmaker Ratings with $50 dollars and since then the company has helped return more than $12 million to players in its mediation activities.
Today, with Azuro, a decentralized betting protocol, co-founder and CEO Paruyr Shahbazyan is looking to give bettors a trustless alternative to betting in an industry imbued with cryptocurrency payments and that is increasingly reliant on blockchain.
We spoke with him about crypto, blockchain, and Azuro’s testnet, which was launched in late August. With this project, the betting entrepreneur intends to familiarize bettors with the protocol using tokens and not real money.
How has crypto changed the online betting industry?
Firstly, there’s many high-volume players, also known as “VIPs” who have switched to use crypto as a payment method, be it so that they can bet at sites which are not available in their country, or for another reason.
This is something that has happened already and a growing trend. In this case, crypto is simply used as a payment method, which is a very basic use case.
However, looking beyond crypto as a payment method, blockchain –and particularly smart contracts– can deliver trustless betting, eliminate intermediaries and bring full transparency to betting. This is not prominent yet, but totally possible and very exciting.
Azuro has launched its testnet. What is the purpose of the platform and what are the main changes?
Azuro is a global decentralized betting protocol, utilizing smart-contracts to bring full transparency to the betting process while delivering a classic betting experience with plentiful markets and liquidity.
The core goal is to give bettors a trustless alternative to betting, which is on par with the experience they can get with traditional bookmakers. As we do that, we remove the issues with trust and transparency between players and operators prevalent today.
Blockchain technology allows for decentralization and the democratization of the betting business. Azuro breaks down the role of a bookmaker into several smaller roles openly available for anyone to benefit from: liquidity provision, front-end management, data provision and decentralized governance.
This means more value is shared with more participants in the ecosystem. Plus, we have a commitment to social responsibility from the very beginning that is unique to our project.
We launched our testnet on August 27th, where users can interact with the protocol, using test tokens, and placing bets. They also compete for rewards but without risking any real money. So, it’s pretty cool.
From a $50 website template purchase in 2012 to what your current business “Bookmaker Ratings” is today… What have been the keys to achieving 1.2 million visits per month on your websites?
The business focused on a simple thing: the lack of trust between players and bookmakers.
So, we were objective in our bookmaker ratings and did whatever we could to help players mainly by acting as an intermediary and resolving disputes between the two sides.
Through this, we managed to have more than $12 million returned to players over the years, which ensured we gained people’s trust. This was all possible because we were driven by a deep understanding of the players’ problems –I was a professional bettor for many years myself.
In comparison, my competitors in 2012 knew how to make strong websites, but did not know much about the needs and problems of the players. Of course, I also had a professional team with me, which is definitely a factor for the success.
Tell us about your future projects, and how do you envision the online betting business amid NFT speculation and bitcoin volatility.
The volatility of cryptocurrencies does not affect the betting industry because betting is perhaps the only niche in crypto that absolutely does not care about the bitcoin price.
Same for NFTs, I don’t see much connection apart from the fact that these hype-waves bring a lot of people to try the technology.
And trustless betting –say, with stablecoins– will allow more and more people to grasp the great opportunities blockchain technology gives them, like freedom, security, and transparency. More people will interact with decentralized protocols.
And given the fact that those in crypto today are mostly risk-prone users, naturally, the proportion of people who will be willing to bet with crypto and on the blockchain will increase exponentially.