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How Unikrn Is Changing the World of eSports Betting

The Seattle startup has major backers (like Mark Cuban) and growing international clout—so no wonder it's attracting new American users.

If you watch League of Legends or StarCraft, why not make things interesting?

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By one estimate, some 70 million people worldwide watch eSports, or professional video gaming. Now they’re putting their money on it, too. As pro gamers wage virtual war in League of Legends or Counter-Strike, legions of fans are gathering online to wager on the heavyweight contenders of the digital age.

Welcoming them is Unikrn, a two-year- old startup, backed by Mark Cuban and Ashton Kutcher (among others), that acts as a custom-built platform to facilitate those wagers everywhere—except, that is, in the U.S. Even though Unikrn is based in Seattle, it’s blocked from collecting U.S. bets with real money under UIGEA, a 2006 law designed to throttle online gambling.

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So Unikrn created a lower-stakes work-around for Americans intrigued by eSports: Unikoin. Unlike Bitcoin, Unikoin can’t be traded for cold cash. Instead, users use winnings to enter raffles; the takes for those drawings include in-game prizes and PC accessories, like gaming mice or head- sets. Unikrn offers players myriad ways to earn those digital nondollars: answering trivia questions, playing StarCraft II—and, of course, by wagering on eSports.

Think of Unikrn as a low-risk alternative to DFS—one that might be a little more wel- coming for fans who prefer a well-executed Zerg rush to a pass rush.

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