Bitcoins are becoming more and more popular with retail vendors and that includes bookmakers. The biggest deterrent for users is the relatively volatile fluctuations of the digital currency. As of September 1, one BTC was worth $479.63, but at three weeks later that number has fallen to $422.92. Benefits of perceived anonymity and lower transaction fees may not be enough for those who don’t want to gamble on their currency as well as their team. But, bookmakers are recognizing that bitcoins are becoming mainstream and want to tap into the growing interest. Over 15 online betting sites that take bitcoin are now covered by Sportsbook Review. That number is expected to double by the end of the year. One of the highest profile bitcoin sportsbooks is Nitrogen Sports, who SBR has completed an initial review on.
Nitrogen Sports opened December 4th, 2012
Nitrogen Sports opened December 4, 2012. It began as a typical bookmaker with the website NitrogenSports.com. Bitcoin was not offered. eWallets such as Skrill was the primary deposit method. Nitrogen tells SBR they struggled to attract players in the first year. Players are rightfully quick to distrust new online sportsbooks as possible fly-by-night operations or scammers that are not properly funded. It was not until March of 2013 that Nitrogen Sports added bitcoin to their online cashier. At this time bitcoin did not yet command the same public attention. There weren’t bitcoin ATMs and a single coin was worth around $45, but the currency quickly climbed in popularity and value over the coming months, skyrocketing to its all-time high of $1,151 later in the year. During this "bitcoin boom" period, Nitrogen claims that there was a drastic flip in currency volume among their users where bitcoin commanded 95% of all transactions. That statement is likely misleading as the new book was not talked about until it was in the context of being a bitcoin bookmaker. In November 2013, Nitrogen launched an .eu website which exclusively handled bitcoin transactions. Nitrogen later took the .com website offline and returned all USD balances. Those players were invited to use bitcoin.
Location & Software
Nitrogen Sports operates out of San Pedro, Costa Rica and has provided SBR with the address of their headquarters which SBR intends to confirm. The data servers which process wagering and transactions are also hosted in Costa Rica. Nitrogen’s marketing office is located in Canada. Nitrogen tells SBR that the sports wagering software is proprietary, designed in-house by engineers. Screenshots of the sports wagering platform are available at the bottom of this report. The sportsbook partnered with Cubeia Social to begin offering a poker platform last week.
Deposits & Withdrawals
Nitrogen provides a unique bitcoin address for instant deposits. The minimum deposit is .001 BTC or 42¢. Deposits are credited instantly. Due to the rapid fluctuations in BTC value, players should understand that all transactions including wagers are done via BTC. Unlike the online sportsbooks who also accept traditional currencies like USD and EUR and convert bitcoin deposits to a player’s country currency, all wagering and transactions in and out of Nitrogen are entirely through BTC. This means that aside from the performance of individual wagers, it is very likely that a withdrawal of any amount in BTC will be worth more or less than the amount deposited. SBR asked the shop if they had plans to add to their cashier options. Nitrogen is considering adding other virtual currencies in the future, and has no plans to return to traditional processors such as eWallet or credit card. The sportsbook educates new players on how to get started with bitcoin by linking prospective clients to a third party website which provides information on existing bitcoin exchanges where BTC can be bought and sold. Depending on the user's country, there are a number of different bitcoin exchange sites to choose from. BTC can be purchased with wire transfer, check, credit card, or through a Person to Person service like Western Union. Users can also use Skrill, Paypal, Webmoney, and many other mainstream options.
Withdrawals are reported to take an average of 30 seconds and are processed with no fees. SBR asked Nitrogen how it protected itself from abuse without human review on all payouts. Nitrogen states that certain factors or red flags will cause an account to be manually reviewed: One example cited was unauthorized access to an account. Player wagers on "e-Sports" (video games) will also be subject to manual review, as post times can lead to wagering disputes. Wagers on large professional sporting events like the NFL and MLB are generally not subject to review. There is no maximum payout per week and management has claimed that they frequently process 60 BTC transactions ($25,000).
Wagering Markets & Risk Management
The current wagering limits on each event are posted alongside the market. NFL games typically open with a limit of approximately 2 BTC ($840) and increase up to 10 BTC ($4200) before kickoff. Nitrogen Sports does not lower player limits for winning and has stated that a player's account has never been closed due to winning or wagering style. In fact it would be impossible for Nitrogen to do so considering there are no account details other than the account ID associated with the bitcoin balance. Staying true to the anonymous principles of bitcoin - the currency which their business has been built upon - Nitrogen does not request this information from their players. This includes not requiring players' full names, home addresses, driver's license or passport, or any of the standard pieces of personally identifying information normally required by online sportsbooks. Users will receive an auto-generated account if it is their first browser visit. Even with conservative limits it is a risky approach for a sportsbook that deals less than full juice pricing. Nitrogen does not offer a signup bonus and management tells SBR there are no plans to offer one. Nitrogen's wagering menu is expansive: The cart includes 50+ international soccer markets, tennis, cricket, rugby, combat sports, volleyball, and all American sports markets including proposition wagers. In addition to the standard sportsbook, there is a member driven betting exchange where users can back and lay offers against one another.
Financial Backing, Management & Player Disputes
The sportsbook backers are essentially unknowns currently. SBR confirmed there are multiple owners. Nitrogen shared some details on the nature of their financial backing but has requested this information be kept off the record. Co-founder James Hampelton serves as the day to day manager of all Nitrogen Sports operations. He has no prior work history with past gaming companies.
SBR has assigned an initial rating of B, which is relatively high for a sportsbook with less than two years of experience. The primary reason for the high mark is the lower risk to player funds… when used correctly. Nitrogen Sports does not need to hold player balances. Players can redeem their balance after each wager is graded. There are no limits to transactions a player can make. The high availability of funds also means players will be able to provide constant feedback to SBR and each other on forums like SBRforum and throughout the bitcoin communities. Players do need to consider that this is a new bookmaker with little history and company transparency. Unlike other bookmakers who may have trouble with Neteller or any other ewallet processor and may have a legitimate excuse or ability to reroute funds, Nitrogen’s entire model rests on its ability to move bitcoins. If it can hold player confidence with immediate transactions its business is likely to grow. A slow-pay within this model will have an instant impact and all SBR and fellow players the ability to draw conclusions rather quickly.
SBR has created a bitcoin reviews guide of the sportsbooks first to support the currency which aims to capture betting features and background information most likely to be relevant to sports bettors. While the guide is presently in a developmental stage, SBR has actively encouraged readers to submit their feedback on what matters to them when evaluating bitcoin betting sites.
The following are screenshots of the Nitrogen Sports website (click images to expand):
Sportsbook Review covered Nitrogen Sports’ entry into the sportsbook ratings guide in the following video review:
Nitrogen Sports players with feedback or complaints should write to SBR.