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For a long time, fantasy sports were the only sports gambling outlet available to most of the United States. Recently, about half of the United States has legalized sports betting since 2018. Both sports betting and fantasy sports receive a lot of coverage. But a new industry is emerging that lives in between fantasy sports and sports betting.

Grin Gaming is one company that’s expanding an industry built on monetizing peoples’ opinions. Although it’s unique from companies like Kalshi and PredictIt, it’s part of a growing industry that fills a void between sports betting and fantasy sports. We spoke with Nick Bucheleres, Founder and CEO of Grin Gaming, about his unique place in the marketplace, why he offers a skill-based game, and why companies like Grin Gaming are so popular.

How Grin Gaming Differs From Fantasy Sports And Sports Betting

At a glance, Grin Gaming looks like a fantasy sports or sports betting company. Players enter contests where they predict games play by play. However, Grin Gaming also offers contests on stock movements and cryptocurrencies. Most contests have small entry fees that give players game currency to use during prediction contests. Grin Gaming takes an administrative fee from contest entry fees, and the top three contest winners split the pot. Here’s what CEO Nick Bucheleres says sets Grin Gaming apart from fantasy sports and sportsbooks:

“The biggest differentiator from sportsbooks is that we’re just simply not the house,” said Bucheleres. “We don’t profit from people losing. We are somewhat similar to daily fantasy. But our model and the experience are much different in that at Grin Gaming, you’re really playing during the game. Even fantasy sports or daily fantasy, it’s kind of a set it and forget it type of model. You pick your lineup, you get your budget, select your players, the game happens, then at the end, you see how you did.”

“At Grin Gaming, you’re making dozens or a hundred different predictions. And those predictions are driven by events happening. So, you’re really engaging whistle-to-whistle, which makes it a game within a game.”

So, Grin Gaming is more interactive than fantasy sports and doesn’t make money the same way that sportsbooks do. Instead of betting on single outcomes for money, players must make multiple accurate predictions in a row to come out on top against other players.

How Grin Gaming Can Offer Stock And Cryptocurrency Contests

Players shouldn’t be surprised that Grin Gaming offers these kinds of contests on sports. But the stock and crypto contests aren’t that different from predictions about sports matches. Especially for Grin Gaming’s algorithm.

“We’ve built a very impressive piece of deep [learning] technology that facilitates the whistle-to-whistle play prediction,” said Bucheleres. “And by virtue of that, we can really hook up any real-time data feed and populate a beat-by-beat prediction sequence therefrom. So, we have this great backend technology [and] we thought stocks and crypto is a great real-time data source.”

Like sports, stocks and crypto markets offer continuous streams of data that an algorithm could analyze. It could offer chances of price changes minute to minute. That’s how Grin Gaming can offer contests like:

  • Which of the two assets will change more at the end of the time provided?
  • Will one currency move more than a set percentage in the time provided?
  • Will a currency drop below a set price in the time provided?

These are simple questions to create with a sophisticated algorithm. That constant data monitoring keeps generating questions, so players always have contests to participate in.

Why Grin Gaming Is Skill-Based

Some betting companies are innovative forces in growing industries. Grin Gaming falls under this category. But others are functionally the same as gambling products but exploit legal loopholes to avoid strict gambling regulations. Unlicensed video slot terminals fall under this terrible category.

Another way to avoid hefty gambling regulations is to be considered a skill-based game instead of a chance-based one. That’s not a problem if a company is honestly skill-based. But some companies push the boundaries of what can honestly be called skill-based. (Daily fantasy sports can fall into this trap.) However, Grin Gaming has come by its skill-based designation honestly.

“The sheer number of choices that a user has to make in order to complete the contest is very high,” said Bucheleres. “It’s between 30 and 120. And so, given that, it is explicitly impossible to luck your way into a win. If you have no idea what you’re doing, you’re just blindly guessing on every prediction, you’re simply not gonna win anything. And so, based on the volume of predictions, it really separates people who know what they’re doing from people just clicking buttons. And that’s a big differentiator between us and say a slot machine.”

Critically, that’s the intuition that goes into only one prediction. Players will make several predictions in a sequence that each requires several steps of analysis. Smarter analysts really can come out ahead compared to hopeful but uninformed gamblers.

Specific Predictions In A Contest

To give Grin Gaming’s skill-based status a concrete example, Bucheleres offered a portrait of an NBA contest.

“Let’s use [the] NBA for an example,” said Bucheleres. “Predicting which team will get the next defensive rebound. You have to have a knowledge of how the defenses of each team are playing that night. You have to understand who has possession of the ball when that question is asked. You need to make some type of interstitial prediction and predict which team will take the next shot unsuccessfully.”

“So, you combine those units of intelligence and you arrive at a best prediction that basically says, ‘okay, this team was most likely to miss the next shot and the defensive team is playing better tonight. So, I think the team that’s not shooting is gonna have the next defensive rebound.’”

Bettors can make informed choices about how the next play will go. (It’s one of the reasons that live betting is so popular at sportsbooks.) Someone who knows the game inside and out will have a better chance at making more correct calls than someone with no knowledge about the game. But the questions that Grin Gaming generates also contribute to a skill-based company.

“[Questions] aren’t like, ‘will there be 30 free throws in the next 10 minutes?’” said Bucheleres. “That’s obviously not gonna happen. Anybody who knows the first thing about basketball knows that’s not gonna happen. But the way that we create the questions and the reason that it’s such a compelling and competitive experience and the reason that skill-based players do stick around is that they know that it is a fair and competitive environment free of arbitrage or ‘gimmie’ questions.”

So, Grin Gaming does its part to make sure its skilled players rise to the top.

Why Betting On Things Besides Sports Is Increasingly Popular

In the wake of sports betting legalization, it seems like companies that offer wagers on things besides sports are popping up left and right. However, it doesn’t seem to be because of legalized sports betting. It seems to be part of a trend giving customers ways to monetize their opinions. Grin Gaming is far from the only company giving customers that option. Kalshi offers derivatives between $0 and $1 on predicting real-life events, like Brexit. And Grin Gaming is very aware of this trend and these other companies.

“Kalshi’s not the first company to offer that,” said Bucheleres. “PredictIt came before them. They’re noteworthy for doing that, but this has been happening for a long time. The goal and mission of Grin Gaming are to allow users to predict everything, and we focus on sports and media and things that you watch. Kalshi does it on things that happen in kind of a geopolitical sense. So, I think you’re right. There’s a trend towards enabling Americans and people around the world to put their money where their mouth is and get a little adrenaline boost in the process.”

However, that doesn’t mean that Kalshi and Grin Gaming are competitors. They occupy distinct enough niches within the industry that Grin Gaming is unconcerned about them.

“I think we’re both parts of the same macro consumer trend that you pointed out, and that we are unlocking new modalities and new ways to predict the future,” said Bucheleres. He went on to make his unconcern about Kalshi clear. “A user could comfortably use both of our platforms without having to decide, ‘am I going to use Grin or am I going to use Kalshi?’”

So, there’s room for different companies to predict the future without stepping on each other’s toes.

For now.

Where Grin Gaming Plans To Go

Grin Gaming has plans that extend far beyond sports and financial markets. Over time, it plans to expand into markets that don’t have easy data streams to leverage. But to understand why it can grow, it’s important to understand how Grin Gaming views itself.

“We are really engaging users in the underlying game that we serve contests on top of. In that way, we’re more of an engagement company than a sports betting company,” said Bucheleres. “And broadcasters and rights-holders are looking for new ways to engage their audiences.”

So, Grin Gaming isn’t just about entertaining players. It’s about engaging them in the events Grin Gaming offers contests on. Understood in that light, Grin Gaming’s next big planned move makes far more sense.

“We just saw the horrible Oscars the other night,” said Bucheleres. “We’re going to be offering live prediction contests on the next Oscars. And you better believe that will make people care a little bit more about Mank and some of these other movies that I don’t think a lot of people saw but would be happy to predict a winner on.”

Clearly, Grin Gaming has plans to broaden its portfolio of contests. However, the Oscars don’t have constant data streams that Grin Gaming’s current algorithm can latch onto. But Grin Gaming has a solution to that issue.

Grin Gaming’s Data Pyramid

Grin Gaming is planning to build a strong foundation of data-heavy events. Then, it will expand into events like the Oscars.

“It’s kind of a pyramid strategy,” said Bucheleres. “The bottom layer of that pyramid is the content for which there are already a lot of real-time data sources. That would be the big four sports in the U.S., stocks, crypto. Once we integrate those data feeds, those just run into perpetuity with no human interaction on our part at all. So, after we get our core catalog down, we’re gonna move on to more challenging events for which there are no real-time data feeds and offer our same prediction layer.”

Adjusting the algorithm to make predictions on events that don’t continuously spew data will no doubt be challenging. However, Grin Gaming’s planned expansion is part of the greater trend toward rewarding users for correct predictions. But what Grin Gaming shows above all else is that there are endless applications of prediction models like Grin Gaming’s, Kalshi’s, or PredictIt’s.

Grin Gaming And The Big Picture

In a society that struggles with anti-intellectualism, companies that reward regular people for their correct opinions are booming. That may seem surprising, but it makes sense. Part of the anti-intellectual streak we see in our public discourse comes from the platform that everyone has been given by social media. Everyone has an opinion, and few are shy about voicing it. Companies that cater to this need should’ve been expected for a long time.

Sports used to be the most popular events to make predictions on. However, that may change as more companies like Grin Gaming offer new ways to wager on different future events. Grin Gaming plans to expand into the Oscars and likely other entertainment events. Kalshi covers geopolitics. PredictIt offers shares on American politics. (PredictIt does so legally because it’s a university project studying markets’ predictive power. No private or public company can offer bets on election outcomes–yet.) The possibilities are endless.

One interesting trend will be worth watching for in the years and decades following the prediction industry’s rise. When people are forced to put money on their predictions and constantly win or lose, we could see one of two things. We could see people’s confidences adjust with their win or loss ratios. Or we could see people remain blissfully unaware of their predictive successes and, more importantly, their failures. We won’t know how that will turn out for many years.

But in the meantime, Grin Gaming and companies like it are holding a mirror up to its customers and challenging them to see what their predictive knowledge is worth. In that light, the stakes in those contests feel higher than a paltry entry fee.

About the Author
Christopher Gerlacher

Christopher Gerlacher

Writer and Contributor
Christopher Gerlacher is a Senior Writer and contributor for Gaming Today. He is a versatile and experienced writer with an impressive portfolio who has range from political and legislative pieces to sports and sports betting. He's a devout Broncos fan, for better or for worse, living in the foothills of Arvada, Colorado.

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