Ethereum

When Bitcoin made its first appearance in 2009, few people had both the technical and economic understanding required to grasp its importance. This allowed the cryptocurrency to gain a large following in the early days, without attracting too much attention.

Things have changed – make no mistake, most of the world’s governments have now woken up to the power and potential that cryptocurrency offers. Whole departments have been created for the sole purpose of watching over Bitcoin and its competitors – especially Ethereum – very closely.

Why is this? Because Cryptocurrency could result in the biggest shake-up of the world’s economic system since the gold standard was abandoned in 1971. These network-driven currencies have no central authority, so they cannot be simply shut down, there is nobody to arrest or put on trial, and there is no way to shut these currencies down, short of shutting down the entire internet.

Where did Cryptocurrency come from?

The ideas and technologies behind Bitcoin are, without a doubt, a breakthrough in payment technology. To be fair to the banking industry, they too were responsible for several breakthroughs of their own, particularly during the 19th and 20th centuries. But the banking industry has become greedy; the abandonment of the gold standard allowed both governments and central banks to “create” money whenever they pleased.

The shortcomings and weaknesses of the global economic system were laid bare during the worldwide financial crash of 2008. Banks worldwide were forced to ask the governments of the countries they operated in to provide massive amounts of financial aid – a bailout – to prevent them from going bankrupt.

The creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, must have realized the inevitability of this crash sometime earlier, as his Bitcoin white paper included references to many previous failed attempts at creating a purely digital currency.

Deciphering the Bitcoin White Paper

The Bitcoin white paper is nothing but indecipherable jargon for much of the population – previous experience of software development as well as a solid understanding of economics, computer networking,  advanced mathematics, and cryptography were all prerequisites for anyone wishing to understand the document.

Despite these hurdles, several people did have all of the necessary knowledge and skills required to understand the potential of this new technology. One of these was Vitalik Buterin, a programmer who founded Bitcoin Magazine in 2013.

Crucially, Buterin had realized that it was the blockchain technology underpinning Bitcoin that was the real innovation here: it could have so many more uses than simply transferring money from one person to another.

How Ethereum was Born

The trouble was, Buterin did not have the capital required to set up an alternative digital currency with the advanced features he had imagined. His first idea was to take the concept to eToro, a social investment network set up by another firm believer in Bitcoin and Blockchain technology. Buterin and eToro’s CEO disagreed on how the project should proceed, but the budding entrepreneur did not give up.

At some point after this, Vitalik managed to find several people who fully supported his vision. At the North American Bitcoin Conference in January 2014, he announced the launch of Ethereum, supported by a group of fellow programmers, Bitcoin enthusiasts, and angel investors.

One of the most important differences between Bitcoin and Ethereum is that the people responsible for the development and maintenance of the Ethereum network are mostly in agreement about the future direction Ethereum should take. This is in stark contrast to the people responsible for the further development of Bitcoin, who struggle to agree on anything.

It doesn’t help that Satoshi programmed Bitcoin in such a way that 95% of the people mining the currency have to agree on any changes before they can be implemented.

What makes Ethereum superior to Bitcoin?

The Bitcoin network is currently massively overloaded. This overload sometimes causes a long delay before a Bitcoin transaction is processed. Worse still, each transaction can be very expensive – at the time of writing, a single person-to-person transfer made using the Bitcoin network costs the sender over five dollars, even if they are only paying for a single cup of coffee.

The team behind Ethereum has been able to use this to their advantage. As Bitcoin’s development team continues squabbling each year over the tiniest of issues, Ethereum’s developers are busy working hard on the next generation of their digital currency.

Ethereum is much more than just another “altcoin” – the term given to cryptocurrencies which are, for all intents and purposes, nothing more than slight variations of Bitcoin’s design and network.

Ethereum aims to be both a real currency that is suitable for making a fast purchase, whilst also being a reliable store of value and a platform on which to build decentralized applications and irrevocable contracts.

Problems & Setbacks

Ethereum sounds excellent so far, but admittedly the currency has faced a host of significant setbacks during its short lifespan. One such issue resulted in a complete split of the Ethereum network, dividing the Cryptocurrency into Ethereum Classic (ETC) and regular Ethereum (ETH).

Bitcoin has suffered no such issues, which does suggest that the person or team who created it was extraordinarily adept and able to foresee the types of attack which a Cryptocurrency network might be subjected to in the future.

Vitalik Buterin is not a bad programmer; his team is also highly skilled at what they do. The fact that Bitcoin has managed to avoid any of the problems Ethereum has suffered could just be a result of Bitcoin’s relative simplicity. It may also be the case that Bitcoin has some flaws of its own, they just haven’t been found or exploited yet.

In truth though, the source code behind Bitcoin was published over a decade ago – thousands of talented individuals have no doubt spent weeks and months analyzing it, line-by-line, in the hope of finding some weakness, some small exploit that has the power to unlock untold riches.

And yet, despite the wide availability of the Bitcoin source code, nobody has found a single flaw. Not one bug. Not one mistake. How many pieces of software can you think of which can boast of such accuracy? This has led some people to speculate that the code behind Bitcoin is so well designed that only a state-actor would have had the ability to create something of such technical perfection.

The Advantages of Ethereum

It would be unfair to discuss Ethereum’s setbacks without mentioning all of the advantages and possibilities that this CryptoCurrency provides over Bitcoin and its many imitators.

One essential element of any blockchain-based currency is the time taken for each block to be produced and added to the existing chain. Ethereum adds a new block to its chain every 12 seconds, which is fifty times faster than the block time of 10 minutes which is hard-coded into Bitcoin.

A block time of ten minutes makes Bitcoin extremely inconvenient for making quick purchases. When you go to buy your morning coffee, you don’t want to have to wait 20 minutes or more for your payment to be confirmed before you can leave the store.

You’ve probably heard about non-fungible tokens(NFT’s) on the news recently – these are digital recreations, recordings, or reproductions of some kind of item or media. These tokens are only possible because of the Turing-complete instruction set that underpins the Ethereum network. The details behind this are outside the scope of this article, but if you have considered purchasing an NFT I thoroughly recommend you research these tokens before spending your money.

The Future of Ethereum

Decentralized finance, decentralized exchanges, prediction markets, and online live casino gambling are all popular uses of the Ethereum network’s innovative design and capabilities. But the developers are far from finished – the big buzz at the moment is “Proof-of-Stake”, which is a system of verifying transactions that does not require mining.

You may have heard earlier this year that Tesla had purchased $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin, and would now be accepting Bitcoin as payment for their cars. Just a few weeks later, CEO Elon Musk had a change of heart and announced on Twitter that Tesla would no longer allow customers to purchase their cars using Bitcoin.

The reason Elon gave for his sudden change of heart was that he had not fully understood just how much electricity is being used to process Bitcoin transactions. Estimates of exactly how much money is being spent mining Bitcoin vary wildly – lots of large mining operations are busy working on Ethereum and other altcoins as well as Bitcoin, making it impossible to get an exact figure.

That said, there is no doubt that most Cryptocurrencies in their current form use massive amounts of electricity to complete their “Proof of work” algorithms.  There is an alternative to this algorithm called “Proof of stake”, and some Cryptocurrencies are already using it successfully.

Proof of Work vs Proof of Stake

Ethereum has already started building a proof of stake algorithm of their own – think of it as Ethereum 2.0 – and the Beacon Chain which will underpin the new network got up and running on the first of December 2020. This new blockchain has received a huge amount of support from Ethereum miners – over 2 million ETH has already been deposited into the ETH 2.0 smart contract.

Major exchanges such as Coinbase and Kraken have already said they will support ETH 2.0. Perhaps Tesla will look at this new generation of Ethereum and decide to accept this as payment for their cars instead? There are, in fact, good reasons why they might.

If you want to participate in Bitcoin mining, you need to have computer hardware powerful enough to solve incredibly difficult cryptographic puzzles of ever-increasing complexity. This has led to an arms race between mining farms, who are all desperate to ensure their systems are more capable of solving these puzzles than the systems being run by their competitors.

Proof of work does away with mining completely, by asking those who own Ethereum to put up their currency as collateral to secure the network. A system of validator nodes is created which hold huge amounts of Cryptocurrency as an alternative way of securing the network.

If a validator node tries to submit invalid transactions or corrupt the blockchain, their Ethereum is “slashed”, and the people who have provided Ethereum as collateral will lose a significant portion of their investment. If you want to get involved in a Cryptocurrency that uses proof of stake, you should do your research to make sure they can be trusted before sending them any of your precious coins.

Proof of stake has many advantages over proof of work. First and foremost, switching your Cryptocurrency to proof of stake can slash the network’s electricity usage by over 99%. Computers created specifically for proof of work mining (ASICs) are nothing but e-waste the moment they are superseded by the next generation of hardware. These two factors alone make proof of stake Cryptocurrencies vastly better for the environment than those which use proof of work, such as Bitcoin.

Proof of stake encourages those who purchase Ethereum to participate in the network over the long term, because the longer they participate in a validator node, the larger the return they will receive on their investment.

So, to summarize, proof of stake blockchains are more economical, much more scalable, and far more environmentally friendly. These advantages could well see proof of stake overtake proof of work blockchains in the not-too-distant future.

Using Ethereum at an Online Casino

As far as depositing at a casino is concerned, Ethereum is vastly superior to Bitcoin. Your funds can be ready to use in under a minute, rather than the average time of half an hour experienced when depositing via Bitcoin.

Because new blocks are produced so frequently, the network rarely experiences the kind of congestion that has forced transaction costs to reach the excessive level they have for Bitcoin depositors.

Likewise, if you request a withdrawal via Ethereum, you can expect to see it available to spend within one minute, depending on how quickly the casino processes such transactions.

Getting Hold of Your Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency has allowed online gambling to thrive in countries where it was previously impossible, but the procedures involved with something as simple as just making a deposit could well be enough to put off many gamblers from even trying.

First of all, you’ll need to convert your local currency into crypto – this is usually done via an exchange. Coinbase, BItpanda, Binance, BitFinex, and Kraken are all well-known crypto exchanges, but none of these will allow you to purchase any Bitcoin, Ethereum, Monero, or any other alternative without first confirming your identity.

These sites would much prefer it if they did not have to do this, but unfortunately, their hands are tied. Fortunately, Cryptocurrency can be used for a multitude of purposes in addition to online gambling, so most countries will allow you to make unrestricted purchases of Cryptocurrency using your debit or credit card.

There are also other smaller sites such as Cryptopay, Revolut, and Wirex that offer basic exchange functionality but are designed more around the idea of allowing you to spend your Cryptocurrency using their prepaid debit cards. Even Skrill and Neteller will allow you to purchase Crypto the Fiat you have sitting in your e-wallet.

If none of these options are available in your country, another option is sites such as LocalBitcoins and Paxful, which are just about the only way you can potentially purchase cryptocurrencies without providing several forms of proof of identity.

These sites usually offer escrow functionality which allows you to pay using your bank card or Paypal, and receive your chosen Cryptocurrency directly to the wallet you specify. Once the transfer has been completed and is visible on the blockchain, only then will the site pass on your payment to the seller. This provides significant reassurance and security to users of these platforms, but the charges for making a purchase can be very high compared with a regular exchange.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can even meet people from LocalBitcoins in public and purchase crypto from them directly for cash. Be extremely careful if you do choose to try this, especially if you are trying to buy large amounts of cryptocurrency. There have been many stories reported in the news of people being robbed whilst participating in this kind of transaction. You have to ask yourself: is this worth the risk, or should I just pay the fees for using escrow?

Online Casinos: Making a Deposit

Once you have your Ethereum, the casino website will ask you how much you wish to deposit and provide you a wallet address to send the funds to. You must be careful to send the exact amount you specify, or the casino may struggle to locate your payment. Ethereum allows you to attach a short note or message with your transaction, and the casino might ask you to place specific information in this field – usually your full name, or a unique reference which will allow them to quickly identify your payment.

Be careful to keep an eye on the numbers shown on screen at every stage of the deposit process – you will be told how much the recipient will receive, after any mining or transaction fees.

At most casinos and exchanges the fees will be added to the number you specify, which makes the procedure relatively simple. Unfortunately, there are other sites such as Binance which will deduct the fees from the amount you request to send to the casino’s wallet address.

Pay attention, make sure the number that the recipient will receive matches what you have requested to deposit, and you should quickly see a confirmation on the screen informing you that your payment has been detected.

Before You Can Begin to Play

Different cryptocurrencies require different numbers of “confirmations” – the number of completed blocks in the chain that have to be calculated before your payment is regarded as being completely irreversible – for Bitcoin, this is usually just two, whereas some sites will ask for as many as 15 confirmations for Litecoin, which has a much quicker block creation time of roughly two minutes.

At the moment, most Ethereum transfers take roughly five minutes to be confirmed on the blockchain, which is when the funds will be added to your casino account and you begin to play. The Ethereum developers are working hard to improve this aspect of their Cryptocurrency – their target is to have transactions confirmed within five seconds.

Such a fast confirmation time would not be possible using a proof of work-based Cryptocurrency. However, once Ethereum completes its switch to proof of stake, the target time of five seconds is likely to be achieved very quickly.

Online Casinos: Making a Withdrawal

Fortunately, making a withdrawal is much less involved than depositing when using cryptocurrencies at online casinos. You don’t need to worry about specifying an exact amount and can usually opt to withdraw part or all of your balance if you wish. Most casinos will not charge any fees for making this type of withdrawal, although a couple do if it is your second or further subsequent withdrawal of the day.

Be sure to choose the correct currency and enter your wallet address EXACTLY as shown on your wallet or exchange. I like to check the first and last three letters/numbers of the address on both sites, then check them again, before hitting the final “withdraw” button.

The volatility of Cryptocurrency can sometimes work in your favor, too – It isn’t unusual for some currencies to rise (or fall) by as much as 10-20% in a single day occasionally, which can result in your winnings being worth a whole lot more  (or less) than you had been hoping for.

If you have sent your withdrawal to a personal wallet on your computer or a hardware wallet such as a Trezor or similar device, you will need to transfer them over to an exchange if you wish to swap the money for Fiat currency.

For this reason, I recommend you withdraw to an online service such as Skrill, Binance, Revolut, as these sites allow you to withdraw the funds directly to your local bank account. Most of my crypto exchange and payment accounts have a pre-paid debit card attached, meaning I can go and spend my winnings straight away.

Crypto withdrawals are usually processed immediately just like e-wallet withdrawals, so you shouldn’t have to wait long to see the funds hit your account. What’s more, the transaction between you and the casino is completely private and will not appear on any bank statements or government records.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if I make a mistake when depositing my funds, such as specifying the incorrect amount?

If you specify an incorrect amount the casino will not be able to match your deposit up with your account automatically, but you should be able to get this sorted out easily enough via live chat. It might take some time though – perhaps even a day or two in the worst cases. Be extremely careful when depositing and withdrawing cryptocurrency!

Remember, these transactions are irreversible – once you hit the send button, the only way to get your funds back is to ask the receiver to send them back to you. The trouble is, an Ethereum wallet address is just a string of letters and numbers – it doesn’t identify the receiver in any way. Therefore, if you make a mistake you have no way of even knowing who it is you sent the money to!

Triple check the address before committing to any transaction – this is the only way to be safe.

I bought Ethereum using Coinbase but accidentally selected Bitcoin when making my deposit to the casino. What do I do now?

This is the ultimate nightmare scenario – Coinbase should detect that the address you have entered is invalid for Ethereum transactions and refused to allow the transaction to complete, but if it does not, then chances are those coins are gone forever.

Just like the problem of losing your private keys, the biggest problem with direct peer-to-peer financial transactions is that there is nowhere to go if you make a major mistake. I’m so sorry if this has happened to you, but all you can do is try and learn from it and move on.

Ethereum has been around for years, is clearly superior to Bitcoin, and yet the price of Ethereum is tiny compared to the price of Bitcoin. Why hasn’t this superior product overtaken its earlier competitor?

Give it time. At the moment, Ethereum is worth around one-fifteenth the price of Bitcoin. If you have trouble visualizing that, look at it like this:

1 Bitcoin = 14.67 Ethereum

1 Ether = 0.068 Bitcoin

The Ethereum market has been much less volatile than Bitcoins. This is both a good and a bad thing – investors have fewer opportunities to make a quick buck, but it also means they can rely more on Ethereum as a solid store of value.

There are many other variables to consider than just the overall price of 1 Ether. For example, the market cap of Ethereum (the total value of the currencies circulating supply) is already around 1/3 that of Bitcoin, and the total volume of Bitcoin transactions Is showing a continuous downward trend, which is the exact opposite of Ethereum. There is just as much Ether being traded every day as there is Bitcoin, despite its lower price and far lower number of people who hold some amount of the currency.

There are other successful blockchains such as Cardano which already use proof of stake. Why not just buy into those, rather than wait for Ethereum to make the switch?

This is an excellent question. If you were holding some Cardano at Christmas last year then congratulations – you have no doubt made a fortune as the currency has jumped up in value by over 1,000%. This is almost certainly down to all the talk about proof of stake and the electricity usage of Bitcoin.

But remember, Ethereum is also experiencing huge benefits from their planned switch to proof of stake before they have even implemented it fully – they have over 2 million ETH in the bank, which is more than enough to guarantee the developers can make this switch successfully and within a reasonable amount of time.

I think the short answer would be, why not purchase some of both – diversifying your portfolio is one of the most basic investing strategies out there, so grabbing a little bitcoin, a little Ethereum, a little Litecoin, and Cardano …. Seek out projects that you believe in and invest in them. Who knows, maybe they will be the next coin to jump by 1000%.

What is the difference between Ethereum and Bitcoin, anyway? And how about all of the other cryptocurrencies? I found a website, coinmarketcap.com, which lists thousands of supposed cryptocurrencies, several of which I have heard are nothing but a scam.

I have also heard about scams such as OneCoin, the so-called “Crypto IPO’s”, the QuadrigaCX mystery over in Canada, and the hack which took down Mt. Gox. I’ve thought about all of these issues in detail, which has left me feeling very nervous about using these currencies – especially just So I can play some online casino games?

Ethereum was created in response to the development of Bitcoin but sought to build upon its foundation at the same time. Vitalik Butarin, the creator of Ethereum, was quick to realize the potential of the blockchain technology upon which Bitcoin was founded.

Butarin studied many of the earlier attempts at creating a digital currency that was discussed in Satoshi’s white paper and realized that there were many useful features and ideas which had not been incorporated into Bitcoin.

One particular example of this is decentralized Smart Contracts – tamper-proof contracts or even applications that can be stored on the blockchain. It was a great idea, but mistakes were made in the earliest incarnation of this technology which ultimately forced Ethereum to be forked at an early stage into Ethereum Classic and the Ethereum that is popular today. A further iteration is coming which will switch to the “proof of work” algorithm used by existing Ethereum for an alternative “proof of stake” system that is intended to lower the energy consumption of Ethereum whilst also improving transaction times.

Many of the so-called currencies listed on coinmarketcap are endearingly referred to as “sh*coins” by the wider cryptocurrency community. Many of these are indeed nothing more than scams, but have nonetheless made their creators thousands – or more – by encouraging others to get involved before their creators sell their entire holdings.

Sticking to the top cryptocurrencies and you will be fine – but you may also miss an opportunity to get involved in the “next big thing”, such as a Proof of Stake based currency called NEO which has increased in value by over 100,000x since its inception. For casino gambling though, I recommend you stick to Ethereum and Litecoin.

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