Throughout all of 2013, gambling sites have been perhaps the single most prominent industry in the entire Bitcoin space. One of the key advantages of Bitcoin is that it makes it very easy to set up a site that handles payments, and gambling sites, which are centered entirely around sending and receiving money, are the first industry to snatch on to this massive improvement in ease of development. In 2012, we saw SatoshiDice grow from nothing to become one of the largest companies in the Bitcoin space, and in 2013 it was sold for the highest price that a Bitcoin company has ever been sold for: $12.4 million. More recently, we have seen SatoshiCircle with its in-browser roulette game, JustDice allowing users to invest in the site in the interface, and a rapidly growing number of other, smaller alternatives.
However, even while we continue to play and be impressed by the rapidly growing number of options that the Bitcoin gambling scene provides, we do not often recognize the unsung heroes behind it all: the companies that actually make the underlying gambling software. Certainly, many sites are fully independent one-man operations creating a website from nothing more than a few dozen lines of code and a web server package. The more professional sites, however, such as SatoshiPoker, get their website design, layout and content from established players that have successfully been making gambling sites years before Bitcoin was born. Here, we have an interview with Ivan Montik from Softswiss, a company set up in 2009 that is responsible for the software behind several Bitcoin gambling sites. Softswiss has also, arguably unfairly, come under fire recently due to allegations that its gambling software copied that of another gambling company, VIADEN; these two pictures are perhaps the most cited evidence in this regard; in this interview, Montik also takes the time to clear up the misconceptions around this issue. More recently, Softswiss has also started to expand its involvement in the Bitcoin economy, offering its own Bitcoin payment solution, which will also be discussed in detail.
Vitalik Buterin: Could you introduce Softswiss to our readers? Who are the company’s founders, and what are some of the products that it offers?
Ivan Montik: SoftSwiss is an IT company based in Austria. It was founded in 2008 by Ivan Montik, an entrepreneur with varied experience in economics, programming and business management. The company now employs over 30 specialists in design, mathematics and information technologies and provides high-end software products and consulting support to companies starting their way in the world of eCommerce and iGaming. The product line of SoftSwiss includes online casino platform and games, online auction software, Bitcoin payment processing solution and an online marketplace.
VB: When did Softswiss get into developing gambling software targeting Bitcoin? What made you see the Bitcoin gambling industry as a business opportunity for your company?
IM:The interest in Bitcoin appeared two years ago when the currency was just invented and Satoshi Dice became popular. SoftSwiss owners thoroughly followed the development and growth of the crypto-currency and were looking for the right moment to implement it in one of the projects. When SoftSwiss online casino platform was first introduced in February 2013 at ICE Totally Gaming in London, we started getting numerous requests from potential clients asking whether our software could work with Bitcoin. It was a technical challenge and at the same time a perfect business opportunity as we strongly believed in the future of Bitcoin. So we put together all our knowledge and skills and came up with a Bitcoin processing solution. We also adapted our platform and games to make them Bitcoin-compliant.
VB: What is Softswiss’s relationship with Betcoin.tm?
IM: When Betcoin.tm first contacted SoftSwiss and asked for a possibility to launch an online casino with Bitcoin processing functionality, they already had Betcoin Circle and Betcoin Dice. They wanted to add casino to their portfolio in the shortest time frame possible and although it first sounded like a great challenge, we managed to set up the software with unique design and integrate Bitcoin payment module in just 10 days. Betcoin.tm casino was launched successfully.
VB: Some observers have noticed that Softswiss’s gaming software has some very similar graphics and sound effects to those used by VIADEN Gaming, and have conjectured that you are copying their work. Could you share your side of the story? What is your actual relationship with VIADEN, and how would you explain the similarity?
IM: Here is a bit of history to help the readers better understand the whole issue. VIADEN is a Belarusian company which was acquired by Playtech in 2011. SoftSwiss development office is also located in Belarus and we know VIADEN founder and former owner in person. After the acquisition many team members left the company and joined SoftSwiss: 3D model developer, 2 flash developers, designer. The lead designer of VIADEN became co-founder of SoftSwiss online casino project. As a result, SoftSwiss games resemble the ones from VIADEN which is quite natural as the team have used their expertise and created SoftSwiss games in their own style. However, nothing has been copied, all games where developed from scratch and we created a completely new code based on AS3 (to my best knowledge, VIADEN’s was AS2).
The software source code was written by SoftSwiss programmers in Ruby-on-Rails (VIADEN was using Php and C++). Mathematics is calculated by our CTO and is 100 unique. Our RNG is certified by ItechLabs.
VB: Is there any specific evidence you can point to to assure our readers that there is no outright copying going on?
IM: The main evidence is the unique source code. Sounds for our games were recorded by a well-known Belarusian radio host Olga Alvarado. We have the agreements with the record studio as proof that all sounds are absolutely authentic. Good personal relationship with VIADEN founder also show that there are no claims on their part.
VB: Do you have any prominent customers in the Bitcoin gambling space aside from Betcoin?
IM: We launched Bitcoincasino24.com among our first clients. We are launching at least 3 more Bitcoin gaming sites until the end of the year. With the growth of Bitcoin, the demand for such casinos has jumped.
VB: I saw that SoftSwiss is coming out with a Bitcoin payment processing solution. What kinds of use cases are you targeting with this? How would you distinguish your own offering from existing Bitcoin payment processors?
IM: Our Bitcoin payment processing solution can be used in any type of online business which accepts and makes payments to the users: online auctions, shops, ecommerce sites, even in an online hospital (we are currently working on a custom project in this area). Another curious idea suggested by a client of ours and which we would like to bring to life: Bitcoin payment solution can be used for charity! Many people are reluctant to participate in charity just because they are not sure their money goes to the desired recipient. The idea of Bitcoin payment solution solves this problem: the system allows for easy tracking of the final destination of the payment, so the person making a donation always knows where the money lands. That’s a good alternative to a wire transfer.
What distinguishes our solution from other providers is the increased security achieved by not using any third-party services. Storing your Bitcoin at an exchange is always risky as you are never sure the exchange doesn’t close the next day. With our solution, all transactions are made to and from the operator’s wallet and are immediately reflected in the balance. It is fully protected from any type of fraud.
VB: What do you see as the future of your company? Do you intend to participate more in the Bitcoin gambling space, focus more on developing other offerings such as merchant solutions, or some of both?
IM: While online gaming and ecommerce will definitely remain our primary focus, we would like to expand into the world of Bitcoin, improve our current solution and explore the unlimited possibilities of using it in various business areas. SoftSwiss will take part in the upcoming gaming exhibitions: RGW Minsk (http://minsk.rgweek.ru/program?language=en 15:30 I will speak about Bitcoin in Gambling), IMA in Düsseldorf and ICE Totally Gaming in London and present our solution as well as tell about Bitcoin advantages to the iGaming world. We would like to contribute to the popularity of this promising crypto-currency and become pioneers in Bitcoin-enabled online gaming.
Vitalik Buterin is a co-founder of Bitcoin Magazine who has been involved in the Bitcoin community since 2011, and has contributed to Bitcoin both as a writer and the developer of a fork of bitcoinjs-lib, pybitcointools and multisig.info, as well as one of the developers behind Egora. Now, Vitalik's primary job is as the main developer of Ethereum, a project which intends to create a next-generation smart contract and decentralized application platform that allows people to create any kind of decentralized application on top of a blockchain that can be imagined.