Cointelegraph By Greg Thomson
Premier League football club Southampton FC has entered into a partnership with cryptocurrency betting website Sportsbet.io. The new venture will give Southampton fans the chance to take in the matchday experience during the COVID-19 lockdown via virtual reality headsets, while influencers will reportedly be granted sums of Bitcoin (BTC) to create unique VR experiences.
Sportsbet.io became the main club partner of Southampton FC at the beginning of the 2020–2021 season, and the United Kingdom-based betting site now aims to utilize its matchday rights in the virtual realm. Sportsbet.io also signed a three-year partnership with Arsenal at the start of the season, becoming the club’s official betting partner in the process.
The betting site has at various times accepted deposits in the form of Bitcoin, Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), XRP, Tron TRX), Tether (USDT), and more.
Tim Heath, founder of Coingaming Group, which operates Sportsbet, said he foresaw a growing relationship emerging between football and cryptocurrency.
“We think cryptocurrency has a big future in football and we’re right behind it. Alongside fan experiences like this, we’ve just seen the first Bitcoin transfer take place where a footballer was purchased using cryptocurrency and signed for DUX Internacional de Madrid, and earlier this year NFL pro footballer Russell Okung said he’s getting his salary in Bitcoin,” said Heath, adding, “We’re likely to see more of the same — from clubs finding new ways to engage with fans on a match day to the way business is done at the top of the game.”
The connection between cryptocurrency and football blossomed in the past few years. Sportsbet has also formed sponsorship deals with Championship team Watford FC, as well as major Brazilian team side Flamengo.
The year 2020 also saw footballers launch their own cryptocurrency tokens, while more major clubs got involved with blockchain or crypto in some way. These include German footballing giants Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, in addition to the historic Italian club S.S Lazio, and Spanish titans FC Barcelona.
David Thomas, chief commercial officer at Southampton FC, said the club was excited to be part of an ongoing process that could shake up the status quo.
“As a club our digital approach has always looked to redefine the content status-quo and we were excited at the shared values between ourselves and the Sportsbet.io team,” he said.
As NFT market cools, a chance to learn lessons from its explosive growth
Cointelegraph By Connor Sephton
What a difference three months makes. Back in March, there was a jubilant atmosphere when Beeple’s mega nonfungible token sold for $69.3 million. You didn’t have to look far to find bold proclamations that crypto art was the next bold frontier in culture — offering opportunities to fledgling creators and transforming the way we interact with masterpieces.
Things look a little different now we’re in June. All-time highs for Bitcoin and Ether are a distant memory, and sobering figures published by Protos suggest that NFT sales have plummeted by 90% since their peak in early May. (Some have questioned this data).
It’s a good time to reflect on how far we’ve come, and where we are going next. Endless column inches are now being devoted to the death of NFTs as an asset class — drawing eerie similarities to the hundreds of articles and tweets that have warned Bitcoin is heading to zero ever since its inception. (One of them came in September 2020, not long before the cryptocurrency’s dramatic bull run began).
Although the crypto markets are rather turbulent right now, those catastrophizing over NFTs might be rather short-sighted.
Just look at what Beeple — real name Mike Winkelmann — told CNN back in March: “NFTs as a technology are super exciting and a lot of people are comparing it to the early days of the internet. With the early days of the internet, you had a lot of hype and you had a lot of speculation, and then there was a bubble, and the bubble burst. But it didn’t wipe out the internet, people kept using the internet.”
Essentially, his point is this: NFTs that have real utility will continue to endure. And indeed, it’s worth noting that the Protos research stresses that crypto collectibles such as CryptoPunks have managed to remain resilient during this bearish downturn. (Indeed, Sotheby’s sold a rare CryptoPunk for $11.8 million just last week — what it described as a new world auction record).
The NFT sector might have taken a beating in the short term, but this doesn’t detract from how these assets are unique, provably scarce and indivisible — transforming the notion of ownership entirely. There are use cases for nonfungible tokens that haven’t been dreamed up yet, and development and innovation in this industry is still at a nascent stage.
Explosive levels of growth in this industry have led to obstacles arising. At times, there has been very little oversight when it comes to the verification process. Congestion on the Ethereum blockchain, the birthplace of NFTs, has also stymied development.
One way of helping the NFT sector bounce back from its current malaise is to increase public awareness about the opportunities that these tokens bring — and make it far less expensive for creators to mint their very own tokens. Right now, digital artists who are just starting out risk overspending on minting NFTs because of Ethereum’s high transaction fees and gas costs — and they may fail to recoup these expenses if their art doesn’t sell.
Creating an environment where nonfungible tokens are easy to discover and inexpensive to buy and sell is nothing short of crucial.
One platform that is vying to make NFTs more accessible to all is MOVE Network — a developer-friendly blockchain that is energy efficient and well secured. Its end-to-end NFT aggregator brings digital assets together in one place. Gas fees are currently being waived for all users, and the ecosystem gives them a chance to easily tokenize their digital content with minimum expense.
This is coupled by a gamified experience that injects fun, intrigue and excitement back into the NFT space. Through the use of “blind boxes,” rare and valuable tokens are going to be hidden, waiting to be discovered. The project hopes that this will offer a new element of surprise for being a part of the MOVE Network community.
Some of the main focuses for MOVE Network include ensuring that these assets can be traded with ease and setting the foundation for NFT tickets — an innovation that could achieve a newfound level of sentimental value for fans who attend events, all while ensuring that tickets can only be resold under certain circumstances and eliminating the risk of counterfeits entering circulation.
The past 12 months have seen MOVE Network completing a beta test, enabling its platform to be used for demonstrative purposes. A collaboration has been established with the H Collective, a corporation that regularly works with top producers and talent in Hollywood. It’s hoped that this partnership will pave the way for NFTs to revolutionize the film industry. Meanwhile, the platform has also successfully closed a $1.5 million seed funding round to fuel its global expansion, and development of the blockchain technology that fuels its ecosystem.
Movie mogul Sid Ganis — who has worked as a top executive at studios including Sony Pictures, Lucasfilm and Warner Bros — has also joined MOVE’s advisory board. He said: “The film industry is constantly changing and innovating. I have been lucky to be a part of those changes for many years. Now movies and content are moving into the crypto marketplace via NFTs, which is another major shift into the 21st-century world of global entertainment. I am very happy to bring what I know to the process.”
MOVE’s NFT marketplace is scheduled to launch in the third quarter of 2021, complete with “blind boxes.” A MOVD token sale will also take place, with the cryptocurrency set to be listed on a major exchange thereafter. Later in the year, additional entertainment industry partners are set to be unveiled — with a decentralized NFT trading platform due to launch on Binance Smart Chain.
Disclaimer. Cointelegraph does not endorse any content or product on this page. While we aim at providing you all important information that we could obtain, readers should do their own research before taking any actions related to the company and carry full responsibility for their decisions, nor this article can be considered as an investment advice.
South Korean crypto exchanges banned from handling coins they issued themselves
Cointelegraph By Greg Thomson
The increased regulatory scrutiny that befell South Korea’s cryptocurrency space in recent times appears to have extended to include exchange tokens.
Exchange tokens are tokens issued by a cryptocurrency exchange that usually offer some benefit to the holder, either through reduced trading fees, regular token burns or other means.
According to a report by Arirang on Thursday, cryptocurrency exchanges are being prohibited from handling any coins or assets issued by themselves. The law also extends to any assets issued by family members, spouses or distant relatives, and is expected to come into effect on June 26.
Businesses which fail to comply with the new regulations could have their operations suspended and face fines of up to $88,000.
South Korea’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) recently contacted 33 cryptocurrency trading platforms to inform them of an upcoming field consultation due no later than Sept. 24. In the week or so since, one Korean exchange, Upbit, delisted a handful of coins, and issued strident investment warnings on another 25 assets, representing 14% of all coins listed on the exchange.
Moving forward, Upbit no longer accepts inbound deposits for the 25 coins mentioned in the warning and has said it will further review the assets to decide whether or not to delist them completely. The deadline for its final decision on the tokens is Friday, June 18.
Related: Korean banks will need to classify crypto exchange clients as ‘high risk’
South Korea’s attempts to tighten its grip on the cryptocurrency industry within its borders has seen regulators demand Information Security Management System certificates from crypto trading platforms, essentially acting as a license to operate. Of 20 exchanges with the certificate, 11 have already either delisted tokens, or issued warnings similar to Upbit’s.
Given that many exchange tokens don’t operate on a proprietary blockchain, the legal definition of what it means to “handle” tokens issued by an exchange may be stretched in the coming days and weeks, as South Korea’s coin clean-up continues.
Bitcoin miners can prove green potential by undergoing ESG ratings check
Cointelegraph By Rachel Wolfson
Environmental concerns regarding the energy-intensive, proof-of-work (PoW) mechanism that Bitcoin (BTC) uses to produce new coins and verify transactions have been front and center lately. Debates regarding Bitcoin’s energy use particularly surged following a tweet sent out by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in May saying that his company would no longer accept Bitcoin payments due to the network’s “increasingly rapid use of fossil fuels.”
Since then, a number of ways Bitcoin mining companies could go green have been discussed, many of which include using 100% renewable energy sources. For example, El Salvador president Nayib Bukele recently disclosed plans for a geothermal power company, letting Bitcoin miners use its facilities to ensure clean mining.
Proof of green potential through ESG ratings
While innovative, these initiatives may be easier said than done. Moreover, if these mechanisms were to be achieved, proof of Bitcoin’s green potential may still be required to show its impact.
In order to demonstrate true energy conservation, Bryan Bullett, CEO of Bit Digital — one of the largest publicly listed Bitcoin mining companies — told Cointelegraph that the company recently submitted for a third-party environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) review. Bullett noted that the international ESG framework is used by many companies and favored by institutional investors to track and verify companies’ environmental standards and adherence.
Sam Tabar, chief strategy officer of Bit Digital, further told Cointelegraph that the firm may be the only Nasdaq-listed miner that has engaged an independent ESG firm:
“Our ESG rating will be provided by Apex Group ESG Ratings & Advisory, a well-known ESG specialist. Apex met our requirements for an independent process to ensure relevance and consistency surrounding ESG and shares our commitment to creating ESG transparency for investors.”
According to Tabar, once completed, the ESG report from Apex will allow Bit Digital to draw meaningful conclusions to better understand the firm’s ESG performance against international standards and its peers, and then identify areas for improvement, all while tracking progress over time.
It’s important to point out that Bit Digital’s ESG rating is not yet available, as Tabar added that he is not sure when the firm will receive the score. “It’s not up to us, but we are willing to be reviewed. Our miner fleet has been running on a majority of carbon-free energy mix on average, so we expect that will be reflected in our score.”
Will ESG ratings become an ongoing trend for miners?
Although Bit Digital may be one of the first mining companies to undergo an ESG review from a third-party firm, other miners may also choose to do the same.
For example, Rob Chang, CEO of Gryphon Digital Mining — a clean energy Bitcoin mining company — told Cointelegraph that the company is using 100% hydroelectricity to mine Bitcoin. While Chang noted that Gryphon has already achieved 100% carbon neutrality, Brittany Kaiser, chair of the board of directors at Gryphon, explained that an ESG rating will be performed upon the launch of the company’s first mining machines, which is set for the beginning of August. “We have not seen ESG rated yet, as we are pre-operational. However, our electricity source is 100% renewable and we have purchased more than 250x more carbon credits to offset the delivery of our mining machines than the footprint it will create.”
Tabar additionally pointed out that it’s important for publicly listed mining companies to undergo ESG ratings for their shareholder’s knowledge:
“Institutional investors increasingly require transparency on, and compliance with, international ESG standards. Therefore, to attract institutional investment, miners face an imperative to operate sustainably, and to provide consistent ESG metrics to the market.”
While the case for ESG ratings is clear, it may be challenging for Bitcoin miners to obtain an ESG score, as a lot of data must be disclosed. Andy Pitts-Tucker, ESG managing director for Apex Group, told Cointelegraph that the ESG rating process varies based on the provider in question. “For listed businesses or funds, companies are evaluated based on publicly available information such as media sources and annual reports, with scores given for each ‘E,’ ‘S’ and ‘G’ category, alongside an overall score.” He added, “For private companies and their investors, data must be provided by the companies themselves.”
Pitts-Tucker further added that an ESG rating specifically provides a consistent standard against which a company’s ESG performance can be measured. As such, he noted that ESG ratings really gained attention last year, as the global pandemic renewed the world’s focus on risks of all types, including non-financial and ESG factors:
“Companies are now facing increasing pressure from investors, employees and customers to disclose their ESG credentials. Companies now not only want, but need, to show their ESG credentials and compliance as their hands are forced by the implementation of regulations.”
Is Bitcoin an ESG disaster?
Although a recent decarbonization report from Big Four firm KPMG reinstates that ESG ratings are quickly becoming a best practice for companies, some traditional financial service firms consider a Bitcoin ESG to be near impossible.
For example, Benefit Financial Services Group, a registered investment advisor for both institutions and individuals, recently published a blog post on the challenges of obtaining a Bitcoin ESG score. Unsurprisingly, the post mentions that by nature, Bitcoin mining is an “undeniable environmental offender.” As such, the entire document slams Bitcoin for being unethical and harmful toward the environment.
Related: Fortunes turning? Specialized GPUs and SSDs come to aid crypto miners
While this may be a common opinion, Sam Wyner, cryptoasset services director and co-lead at KPMG, told Cointelegraph that in some cases, Bitcoin mining operations may be better positioned than larger organizations for an ESG score since they are typically smaller, more focused and, therefore, more agile:
“They will face the same challenges any corporation trying to obtain an ESG rating would face: Organizational maturity, when it comes to ESG and availability, and granularity of the data needed to support the rating. This is something even the largest corporations currently struggle with. And, like any corporation going through this for the first time, there is always the risk that the rating comes back less favorable than desired.”
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