telegram-ton

Concerns Raised Over Telegram’s Upcoming Crypto Platform

Recent reports have implied that Telegram messenger is set to begin testing TON (Telegram Open Network) its blockchain network in September. The company’s owners raised a whopping $1.7 billion in March in an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) that is one of the most successful ones of all time. Part of the proceeds from the ICO have been used to develop the platforms blockchain network which is aimed at building a universal blockchain infrastructure based on its speed as well as the inclusion of smart contracts. It is therefore very easy to see why many people are so excited about this.

The testing phase of the crypto platform is set to kick off in September and the blockchain nodes will be available as open-source alongside other blockchain database management tools like consensus and shards – these will allow a test-run of TON.

TON is slated to process transactions faster and more efficiently than both Bitcoin and Ethereum while at the same time rivaling widely accepted payment options like MasterCard and Visa. To make it even better, the platform will also be compatible with Ethereum (ETH) when it launches and hopefully, other cryptocurrencies will get support along the way. Very promising, right?

The Concerns

While the TON platform may seem like a solution to a ton of problems, not everyone is convinced that it is what it claims to be. According to a report detailing how terrorists have been using digital currencies, there has been speculation that the release of TON and the associated Gram token pose a significant security threat to the United States’ government.

Telegram seems to be aware of such concerns and has even gone as far as singling out people they believe are terrorists through their privacy policy which reads:

“If Telegram receives a court order that confirms you’re a terror suspect, we may disclose your IP address and phone number to the relevant authorities. So far, this has never happened. When it does, we will include it in a semiannual transparency report…”

Telegram’s chief executive officer, Pavel Durov, has been very adamant when it comes to compromising the security of the messaging platform. However, he has cooperated with governments after terrorist attacks were reportedly coordinated using the app. Now, there is even more scrutiny being directed at the company because of its TONPayments – there is a considerable amount of certainty that this will make it very easy for terrorists to raise funds for their operations all without a trace.

coinbase

Coinbase Now Valued at $8 Billion Despite BTC Price Plunge

Bitcoin just turned ten but this year has been quite shaky for the digital currency. Still, while there have certainly been significant lows with regards to its price, there have also been a number of great things it has brought forth for the thriving and equally resilient crypto community. One of the biggest beneficiaries of this has been Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange whose value has been skyrocketing despite the bitcoin slump the industry has experienced in the past few weeks.

On Tuesday, October 30, the San Francisco-based company officially announced a $300 million fundraising round, which, as it turns out, brings the company’s new valuation at $8 billion. This makes it one of the most highly valued exchanges in the United States and among the top ones in the world. The $300 million deal is a massive increase from Coinbase’s previous valuation, which was $1.6 billion in August 2017.

Led by Tiger Global Management, the Series E round included participants such as Wellington Management, Andreessen Horowitz, Polychain and Y Combinator. Coinbase plans to use the funds from these series to “accelerate the adoption of cryptocurrencies and digital assets.” Already, these plans seem to be already paying off since the company has already landed the No. 10 spot on the 2018 CNBC Disruptor 50 list, something that has been partly attributed to perfect timing – Coinbase took advantage of the huge opportunity that was created when bitcoin skyrocketed to nearly $20,000 towards the end of 2017.

Catering to Institutional Investors

Cryptocurrencies, in general, have had one of hell of a year losing over 65 percent of their value due to less retail interests. Coinbase, on the other hand, managed to invest immensely in its master plan to cater to institutional investors which has been a defining factor of the company’s success in the world of crypto. In 2018, the company has launched a suite of offerings for tailored specifically for professional investors. Coinbase Custody, one of these offerings, has just recently received regulatory approval from the New York Department of Financial Services.

In addition to that, the company also recently partnered with Circle, another crypto-based company for a project aimed at supporting a digital currency known as “stable coin” which is being marketed as a U.S. dollar-backed cryptocurrency. This particular plan plays into Coinbase’s grand plan to bridge the gap between cryptocurrencies and fiat currency in all regulated markets as well as building out its custody offering “to bring more institutional funds into the space.”

“We see hundreds of cryptocurrencies that could be added to our platform today and we will lay the groundwork to support thousands in the future,” Coinbase President and Chief Operating Office Asiff Hirji added.

Coinbase’s equity and valuation should help the company achieve all this and more by allowing it to add new assets to its very popular trading platform.

ags

AGS Gets Pa. Slot Machine & Table Games Manufacturer License

AGS, formerly known as the American Gaming Solutions, has recently been awarded a license to manufacture slot machines and table games by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. That said, the electronic gaming devices and table products designer and supplier will be able to deploy its gaming products in all of the Keystone State’s 12 licensed brick-and-mortar casinos, something that David Lopez, the company’s president and chief executive described as a huge milestone.

“The two Pennsylvania licenses represent a huge milestone for AGS, as we continue to expand our presence into new markets for our company. This is huge news for AGS and we can’t wait to start talking to Pennsylvania’s gaming operators about how we can deliver a great player experience and operating efficiencies with our innovative slot and table solutions,” David Lopez commented.

AGS expects to begin deploying its slot machines and table game products in the aforementioned Pennsylvanian casinos early next year, which is perfect timing since a number of the betting activities will kick off at around the same time considering how the statewide gambling expansion plans have been going so far – the move to award AGS with the manufacturing licenses follows from last week’s announcement that the gaming control board had approved the first two sports betting licenses in the state.

Prior to that, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board also approved interactive gaming licenses for a good number of the casinos that had applied. Hopefully, the entry of AGS into the Commonwealth’s gaming industry will trigger more improvements through collaborative efforts to deliver great gaming experiences to customers. Dauphin County-based Hollywood Casino and the Bensalem-based Park Casino, the first two casinos to be awarded sports betting licenses by the PGCB, will hopefully have their sports betting operations up and running by the time AGS begins to roll out its products but this does not dispel the opportunity for collaboration. In fact, all things considered, it is inevitable.

At the moment, the Commonwealth’s gaming industry consists of two resort casinos as well as 10 standalone and racetrack casinos, all generating about $1.4 billion in slot machine and table game tax revenue.

Why AGS?

It came as no surprise that the gaming control board chose to award AGS the manufacturer license. This is primarily because the gaming product designer and supplier has made a name for itself as global innovation powerhouse with a reputation for creating a diverse variety of immersive and entertaining gaming experiences that appeal to several different kinds of players.

The company has often leaned more towards the Class II Native American gaming market but this has not stopped it from growing and developing a customer-centric culture that has led it to become a leading all-inclusive commercial gaming supplier.

google-adwords

Google Lifts Its Ban on Cryptocurrency Advertisements

Earlier this year (in March), Google announced a cryptocurrency ad ban that it went on to roll out in June – these were intended to protect its consumers and involved wallets, trading services, and Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). This is all about to change with the company on September 25 ending the ban on cryptocurrency advertisements.

In a new update to its advertising policies, the company emphasizes that at the ads that would be allowed would only be those of “regulated” trading sites.

“The Google Ads policy on Financial products and services will be updated in October 2018 to allow regulated cryptocurrency exchanges to advertise in the United States and Japan,” Google explained. “Advertisers will need to be certified with Google for the specific country in which their ads will serve. Advertisers will be able to apply for certification once the policy launches in October. This policy will apply globally to all accounts that advertise these financial products. For more details, see About restricted financial products certification. The Financial products and services page will be updated once the policy goes into effect.”

Google was one of the tech companies that moved to prohibit cryptocurrency advertisements alongside Twitter and Facebook, though the latter later relaxed some of the restrictions it had placed on cryptocurrency-related advertisements. Google’s ban was so wide-ranging that it affected offerings from both legitimate wallet services and trading professionals.

This crackdown on crypto went on to rapidly spread across the internet leading to various bans from other companies, including LinkedIn, MailChimp and Snapchat. Even though this was meant to stop or at least slow down scammers on the internet it also whipped out legitimate blockchain projects which in turn slowed down adoption of digital currencies, stifled promotion and stoked more fears about mainstream acceptance of crypto.

The Reason Is Yet to Be Known

As is it stands, there has not been a clear explanation as to why the tech giant has chosen to lift the ban barely four months after it imposed it. It is speculated that the company believes that the hype that surrounded crypto, as well as the negative side effects associated with the skyrocketing values, have finally died down are at least reduced significantly. Still, it is possible that Google is simply keeping its eye on the prize i.e., the valuable ad money that crypto will bring in.

“We don’t have a crystal ball to know where the future is going to go with cryptocurrencies, but we’ve seen enough consumer harm or potential for consumer harm that it’s an area that we want to approach with extreme caution,” Google’s Scott Spencer said in June when the original ban was rolled out.

crypto-regulation

Treasury Committee Report Calls for Crypto Regulation

MPs on the Treasury select committee have recently issued a report that states that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are “wild west” assets that expose investors to a litany of risks and therefore, there is an urgent need for their regulation. The report further pointed out concerns that consumers were left unprotected from the unregulated crypto market which also happens to be a conduit for criminal activities such as money laundering and illegal trade.

Apparently, the government and regulators have not been proactive in handling the arising issues that are associated with the crypto market – according to the Treasury Committee.

“Crypto-asset investors are currently afforded very little protection from the litany of risks. Namely, there are no formal mechanisms for consumer redress, nor compensation,” said the committee. “As the government and regulators decide whether the current Wild West situation is allowed to continue, or whether they are going to introduce regulation, consumers remain unprotected.”

Cryptocurrencies are currently covered by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the City regulator, and there are still no formal mechanisms for investor compensation or consumer redress, something that Nicky Morgan, a conservative MP and the chair of the committee, says is unsustainable.

“Bitcoin and other crypto-assets exist in the wild west industry of crypto-assets. This unregulated industry leaves investors facing numerous risks,” Nicky Morgan said. “Given the high price volatility, the hacking vulnerability of exchanges and the potential role in money laundering, the Treasury committee strongly believes that regulation should be introduced… It’s unsustainable for the government and regulators to bumble along issuing feeble warnings to potential investors, yet refrain from acting. At a minimum, regulation should address consumer protection and anti-money-laundering.”

The Treasury Committee believes that there should at least be some regulation to add customer protection and fight money laundering. All of these issues stem from concerns regarding the volatility of digital assets – the prices of cryptocurrencies were so volatile that while the potential gains are quite large, so are the potential losses.

“The FCA agrees with the committee’s conclusion that bitcoin and similar crypto-assets are ill-suited to retail investors, and as we have warned in the past, investors in this type of crypto-asset should be prepared to lose all their money.”

The Treasury Committee’s recommendations have been noted and echoed by a number of stakeholders in the cryptocurrency industry including CryptoUK, a self-regulatory trade association for the United Kingdom’s digital currency industry.

“As an industry, we have been calling for the introduction of proportionate regulation to improve standards and encourage growth,” said Iqbal Gandham, the chairman of CryptoUK. “Self-regulation by the industry was always intended to be a starting point – this must now be matched by government action.”

crypto-Investigation

200 ICOs and Cryptocurrencies Under Active Investigation

The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), an international task force that is tasked with tackling securities violations in the cryptocurrency industry, on August 28 announced that it has opened active investigations into over 200 initial coin offerings (ICOs) and crypto-related investment products.

First launched in May, the operation – referred to as “Operation Cryptosweep” – has been targeting a number of suspicious crypto investment products. It is composed of regulators from the United States and Canada which makes it the largest coordinated investigation by state and provincial officials. It has also already seen through 47 enforcement actions against ICOs and cryptocurrency investment funds in the U.S. and Canada, something that has earned its praise from Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The violations the operation has uncovered range from securities fraud to failure to properly register products before offering access to investors.

According to NASAA president and Alabama Securities Commission director Joseph Borg, the regulatory operation continues to commit significant resources to ensure that retail investors are protected. This is especially because many cryptocurrency advocates and financial watchdogs are split on how the ICOs and crypto firms should be regulated. NASAA’s contribution is, therefore, one of the best developments in the sector since other than protecting the retail investors, it will also serve to raise awareness among industry participants in regards to their regulatory obligations and responsibilities.

“While not every ICO or cryptocurrency-related investment is a fraud, it is important for individuals and firms selling these products to be mindful that they are not doing so in a vacuum; state and provincial laws or regulations may apply, especially securities laws. Sponsors of these products should seek the advice of knowledgeable legal counsel to ensure they do not run afoul of the law. Furthermore, a strong culture of compliance should be in place before, not after, these products are marketed to investors,” Joseph Borg added.

Do Your Homework, Investors Told

As it stands, NASAA is the oldest international organization whose main focus is investor protection – it is based on voluntary association and boasts of 67 member states, provinces and territories across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. However, despite its far-reaching capabilities in handling irregularities in the crypto within the mentioned areas, there still needs to be some element of support from other stakeholders.

The operations president has highlighted the need for ICOs to register with the appropriate agencies or, if possible, contact regulators to check whether they qualify for exemptions or not. He further warned investors against dealing with ICO promoters claiming their products is exempt from securities registration unless of course, the claim is verifiable.

“Do your homework and contact your state or provincial securities regulator with any concerns before parting with your hard-earned money — afterward may be too late,” he pointed out.

India_crypto

India Considering Crypto Tokens for Financial Transactions

Indian authorities have recently revealed that the country has been exploring tokenized datasets and other cryptographic forms of blockchain technology albeit while still maintaining their rather unfavorable stance towards cryptocurrencies citing their potential role in unlawful activities such as money laundering. As such, the prevailing ban on cryptocurrencies is likely to continue regardless of the government’s interest in issuing digital tokens for financial transactions.

“There are lots of issues that need understanding and lots of studying needs to be done,” a government official who requested to remain anonymous said. “Blockchain is an interesting thing. We definitely want to milk it effectively for financial transactions. So all officials are really trying hard to understand how to separately use blockchain, without cryptocurrency. And understanding a new software takes time.”

According to local Indian news outlet, DNA India, the country’s government have been considering the applications of crypto tokens in several different areas. However, as clarified by the new outlet, the government has excluded any use of cryptography and blockchain technology for the purposes of cryptocurrencies or any other sophisticated means of money transfer and international transactions. In fact, the officials believe that the crypto-tokens, including the ones they are exploring, do not themselves hold any inherent value. Instead, they represent an underlying asset that is only accessible to the private key holders. This implies that the crypto tokens will certainly not be serving as a substitute for fiat currency but will be representing an underlying value so as to enable faster and more transparent payments.

“One will need to pay physical money to buy a token which could be stored as a code in any basic mobile feature phone. It can even be used for remittances. So, it is easy to implement from technology as well as a regulatory point of view. But in the case of cryptocurrency, one needs to allow it as a legal tender first,” the DNA India report explained.

Spearheaded by a Committee

India’s finance ministry has since set up a committee headed by the secretary of the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) for this initiative. The committee has been tasked with working on a set of regulations and a roadmap to guide the use of the proposed assets in India. A drafty of these regulations, once drafted, will be forwarded to the country’s parliament for further approval.

“The committee is studying the possibility of using cryptocurrencies or crypto technology (distributed ledger technology) for financial transactions and also what kind of regulations are needed for that [while] the currency is totally banned, the committee is discussing its other uses and how it can be mainstreamed in India,” Subhash Chandra Garg the DEA secretary, who is heading the committee, said.

goldman-sachs-bitcoin

Goldman Sachs to Reportedly Manage Bitcoin for Its Clients

Goldman Sachs, one of the world’s leading investment banks is reportedly considering a custodial service to store bitcoin for investment funds that intend to hold cryptocurrencies, more so, bitcoin. According to a Bloomberg report that cites more than one anonymous sources familiar with the matter, the investment bank has been holding discussions about becoming one of the first mainstream financial institutions to custody crypto assets.

The custody service, if implemented, is going to be a huge gain for crypto funds and simultaneously have greater implications since it would effectively get rid of a major obstacle that has been preventing institutional investors such as endowments and pensions from comfortably adding crypto assets to their portfolios. Well, such custody services already exist, but until now, they have largely been limited to cryptocurrency startups like Coinbase – instead of Wall Street giants like Goldman Sachs, with whom many mainstream institutions prefer to work.

Response to Client Interest

According to the anonymous sources, deliberations on the issue are ongoing but a timeline for when the investment bank will roll out the services is yet to be set. They further confirmed that this is good news since the custody operation in place could also lead to other lucrative ventures including prime brokerage services.

“That means the bank would hold the newfangled securities on behalf of the funds, reducing risk for clients seeking to guard against the threat of losing their investments to rogue attacks,” the anonymous sources clarified.

As it stands, Goldman Sachs is yet to publicly confirm the claims that it is exploring the aforementioned crypto custody service. Instead, the Wall Street giant has opted to reiterate its previous plans from May this year to offer Bitcoin futures.

“In response to client interest in various digital products we are exploring how best to serve them in this space,” the investment bank’s spokesman said in an August 6 publication. “At this point, we have not reached a conclusion on the scope of our digital asset offering.”

If Goldman Sachs does indeed veer ahead with a crypto assets custody service, it will be joining JPMorgan Chase, Bank of New York Mellon, Northern Trust and Japan’s Nomura. The institution has been taking baby steps with their crypto-related offerings – it has not yet set up the full-fledged cryptocurrency trading desk it announced earlier this year – but all the same, these minor developments are huge milestones for the cryptocurrency industry.

Still, it is worth noting that Goldman Sachs remains very cautious about crypto assets despite their confirmed and rumored efforts to venture into the crypto space. In fact, the institution recently published a statement that expresses its belief that there will be further price drops across the crypto market in the short term.

illinois-gambling-law

Illinois Online Gaming Set For Hearings in November

As it stands, most states that chose to examine online poker legislation in early 2018 moved to abandon it, at least until their next legislative sessions kick off next year. Not Illinois though. The state is set to be the next state to fully launch its online gaming industry, a process that will begin when they create a regulatory framework for legalized sports betting.

There are high some pretty expectations following the announcement by a lawmaker who intends to push for comprehensive gaming expansion that will encompass sports betting, online casino games, online poker as well as daily fantasy sports. The lawmaker, Representative Bob Rita who is also the head of the Illinois House Subcommittee on Gaming Sales and Other Taxes, believes that by advancing the proposed regulatory framework bring “tremendous opportunities to create revenue, jobs, and economic growth” in the state.
The lawmaker will be bringing together the two House committees in the coming weeks so as to coordinate efforts for a significant gaming expansion bill that promises a number of economic opportunity initiatives. The first of these subcommittee hearings is scheduled for August 22 with the following shortly after on October 3.

“As I have said from the beginning in working on this issue, gaming expansion presents many tremendous opportunities to create revenue, jobs and economic growth in Illinois,” Rita said in a press release. “The gaming landscape has changed significantly since I took on this issue five years ago, and I want to use these hearings to understand how those changes present new opportunities for us to put the right package together as we look to meet budget needs and provide a spark for our economy.”

The primary focus of the hearings, according to WCSJ News, will be to address the possibility of not only online sports betting but also other forms of online gambling. It is hoped that the hearings will assist the lawmakers in better understanding of the issues that need to be addressed as far as sports betting is concerned. The lawmakers will be returning to the capitol in November – shortly after the mid-term election – for the fall veto session and when this comes to an end we will have a clearer picture of the future of online poker in Illinois.

Too Early To Get Their Hopes Up?

Online poker fans residing in Illinois have quite a lot to be hopeful about. This is because the desire for sports betting and daily fantasy sports in the state is strong and since these issues are certainly going to be discussed rather explicitly during the hearings, the push for online gambling is also going to be just as prominent. The inclusion of online poker and other online casino games is being considered by very many of the state’s casino simply because they have seen the benefits similar initiatives have brought to Atlantic City, New Jersey.

blocktrade

First Fully Regulated Cryptocurrency Exchange Goes Live

Crypto has been on a roll with a ton of new developments popping up every single day. While the nascent industry is certainly headed towards the right direction, achieving full regulatory approval is a very big deal, especially for cryptocurrency exchanges – it is even harder for them to get regulatory approval before they launch. Well, not anymore.

Liechtenstein-based Blocktrade.com has just been approved by the Finance Markets Authority and is set to be the first digital currency exchange to be open for testing – the Financial Markets Authority is a member of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA). In a press release, the company confirmed that is in the process of obtaining a multilateral trading facility (MTF) license courtesy of the European Union’s MiFID II framework.

Blockrade.com’s launched the beta version for testing last week – this trial period is set to end on August 25 and will be followed by the full launch though the actual date of the launch is yet to be revealed.

“I hope early adopters will provide us with valuable feedback so that we can improve the platform even further. I believe its capability, as well as its user experience, are impressive, so I am convinced the word about our beta release will be spread widely. We are already setting up interviews with major financial, fintech and business media, so I will get a chance to talk about our development and vision for the future of finance,” Blocktrade’s CEO Luka Gubo said in a recent interview.

During the aforementioned initial testing phase, Bolcktrade.com will be offering Ethereum, bitcoin, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Ripple’s XRP trading pairs. Once the platform is fully launched later this year (around September), it will offer Security Tokens, Crypto Traded Indices and Tokenized Assets.

“We believe that if you operate an exchange and if you have an orderbook with a matching engine, you should also be regulated as an exchange. This removes the hurdles for traders (retail and institutional alike) to access the new asset class as the full MiFID II compliance makes us more transparent, reliable, trustworthy and enables equal access for all,” Gubo added.

The State of Crypto

Unfortunately, many institutional investors still regard the unregulated exchanges that dominate the crypto market as risks due to the lack of transparency. In fact, as it stands the European Union is yet to come up with a unified position and regulatory requirements for the cryptocurrency exchanges operating in the territory.

As for the MiFID II which came into effect at the beginning of 2018, the licensing process is quite explicit and will certainly do for now. To put this into perspective, it requires that the companies seeking its license prove that they have operated fairly, honestly and professionally in the best interests of the users of their platforms. The institutions also have to comply with a number of reporting, transparency and capital requirements.