New unregulated gambling site offering cash prizes for picking hot stocks

A model wears monkey makeup to promote ApeStox, an online trading and cryptocurrency-based gaming platform slated to launch in the fall. (ApeStox via Twitter)

At the height of the meme stock mania, “monkeys strong together” was a battle cry for investors who loaded GameStop (GME), Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY), AMC Entertainment (AMC) and tech stocks. old Canadian darling of BlackBerry technology (BB.TO)(BB).

The reference to the Planet of the Apes the movies, where primates overthrow humanity, was suitable for early 2021. For rookie traders who coordinated a short squeeze on Wall Street funds betting against these underprivileged companies, it was about reclaiming the stock market for average people while making a quick buck during COVID-19 shutdowns.

Now, a Canadian gambling industry lawyer is preparing a monkey-inspired online gambling platform where players compete by predicting how stocks and cryptocurrencies will trade, risking only entry fees between $1 and $1,000.

Brian Hall is the co-founder of ApeStox and an attorney at the Toronto law firm of Lazarus Charbonneau. Hoping to capture the bravado of online forums like Reddit’s WallStreetBets, he envisions a player ranking where professional traders are publicly ranked against self-made investors. His plans even include a “World Series of Trading” tournament with a $10,000,000 prize.

“There are a lot of chest shots in this space,” Hall said. Yahoo Finance Canada in a video interview from Saint Martin, where the company is partially based. “If we get it right…there will be a class of celebrities who are kind of born out of it.”

ApeStox is set to launch this fall with two game modes. A simple “higher or lower” version features securities or cryptocurrencies, asking players if they will trade higher or lower within a time limit. In the “open markets” version, players are given fake currencies to invest in and are ranked based on their returns. In either case, the prize pool is determined by the game’s entry fee, of which ApeStox collects a percentage.

“If you run a 1,000 player tournament with a $1,000 buy-in, that’s a million dollar prize pool,” Hall said. “Maybe first place would cost $500,000.”

He sees private enterprise as a possible acquisition target for US casino giants like MGM Resorts (MGM) and Caesars Entertainment (CZR) as they seek millennial and Gen Z customers, and seek to take advantage of the growing interest in the stock market.

I’m sure if that ever happened a judge would agree with meBrian Hall, co-founder of ApeStox and advocate for the Canadian gaming industry

Hall says a key feature of the sale is the lack of licensing or regulatory hurdles typically required in the gambling industry. Relying on his legal background, he says ApeStox is outside the jurisdiction of the authorities. provincial and state regulators that generally oversee casinos, horse racing and sports betting operators. The distinguishing factor, he explains, is that picking stocks and cryptos is a skill.

“The prize is distributed solely according to the player’s choices. There is no card game or RNG (random number generator) or any element of chance,” Hall said.

A spokesperson for the AGCO (Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario) said ApeStox has not registered with the agency or been analyzed by its gaming lab. In an email, Raymond Kahnert states that the AGCO is “unable to comment on the nature of the game, and whether it is a game of chance, a game of skill or a mixed game of chance and skill”.

“I’m confident that if this ever happened, a judge would agree with me,” Hall said. “AGCO is very familiar with this distinction. They have been in court on this same issue many times, so I don’t fear they will attack us.”

ApeStox plans to voluntarily impose a minimum age of 18 on the site. Hall says the tournaments will be limited to stocks from major exchanges and the biggest cryptocurrencies to reduce the risk of players using inside information or manipulating non-game securities.

Noting the success of fantasy sports giants DraftKings (DKNG) and FanDuel in shaping public policy in key US states like New York, Hall says he actually favors a relationship with regulators at some point.

In Ontario, however, DraftKings, FanDuel and others recently shut down their paid fantasy sports offerings due to new internet gambling regulations that take into account gambling and require players to be physically located. in the province.

AGCO spokesperson Kahnert also notes that Ontario’s iGaming rules prohibit “betting on financial assets and markets (e.g. stocks, bonds, currencies, real estate) “.

“I see [regulation] as a way to protect our market share if we get bigger because it creates a barrier to entry for competitors,” Hall said. “I would appreciate it, especially if we are ahead of the market.

Jeff Lagerquist is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jefflagerquist.

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