Australian company PlayUp is looking to change the face of online gaming via a global ecosystem and its own cryptocurrency.
Little did Daniel Simic know when he embarked on a short trip to the United States in 2015 that he would return with an idea to dominate the global fantasy sports world, transform online betting and pave the way for the future of cryptocurrency in gambling.
Fast forward four years and the Australian entrepreneur’s business, PlayUp, is turning over almost AU$300 million annually, has launched its own cryptocurrency called the PlayChip and is in the midst of global expansion with interests in the US, UK, India and China.
“PlayUp is essentially an online gaming business that has free-to-play and pay-to-play by both fiat and cryptocurrency,” Simic explains from his office in Sydney.
“We’re trying to build one portal that caters for everyone on a global basis, not only by offering a full suite of products to satisfy whatever they might want to play but also using one-off KYC, one-off AML and one-off sign-up, all into our digital wallet which is attached to all of our different games.
“The actual smarts are in the wallet as to what you can do within your jurisdiction. If you’re in America and you can play fantasy sports but you can’t bet on sports within your state, the wallet simply won’t let you bet on sports.
“It’s about ease of play and allowing the player to decide what he wants to do.”
While the PlayUp model envisions a single, global ecosystem offering “something for everyone”, the original concept was far less ambitious.
After recognizing the potential of Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) during his 2015 trip to the US, Simic returned to Australia and set to work developing his own fantasy sports software. The software showed promise from the outset, but coincided with the launch of a rival DFS operator called DraftStars – owned by James Packer’s CrownBet.
“They came in, pumped a serious amount of money into marketing and drove us out of the market,” Simic recalls, “so we focused our energies on technology rather than marketing and decided to sit back while CrownBet educated the Australian DFS market.”
It was around this time that Simic stumbled upon PlayUp – the trading name of a company called Revo – which had spent around AU$100 million trying to grow its own fantasy sports business in Asia with little success.
Noting that PlayUp, while struggling for revenue, had managed to build a decent following among social media communities, he purchased the assets and implemented his own technology – described by Simic as being “just as good as FanDuel or DraftKings.”
“From that moment it took off, the users started signing up in droves,” he recalls. “We’ve now got over 1 million sign-ups from over 100 countries. Those clients are all free-to-play and now we have to convert them to the paid model which we are slowly doing one step at a time.”
Central to the PlayUp model is the company’s own cryptocurrency, the PlayChip. Launched in 2018, the PlayChip was borne out of a need to standardize prize pools in both its pay-to-play and free-to-play products but also provides a unique level of flexibility across PlayUp’s numerous betting sites. Those sites, which include none other than DraftStars – acquired from CrownBet in April 2018 – now extend well beyond fantasy sports to sports betting, racing, eSports and online casino.
“What we found is that when you buy five companies each turning over $50 million, that’s AU$250 million combined but whereas there were previously five lots of overheads, we now only had one,” explains Simic, whose company also counts Australian-based ClassicBet, Betting.Club, TopBetta and MadBookie among its acquired brands.
“By buying them we turned them into profitable entities overnight with a mass database of gamblers, and our ecosystem is a global ecosystem where we can cater to the jurisdiction and offer them sports betting, racing, fantasy sports and casino depending on where they are and what they are allowed to play.”
Aside from globalization, Simic says the beauty of the PlayChip concept is the ability to target three distinct player types – the social gamer, the traditional fiat currency player and, perhaps most importantly, the “guys in crypto-land who have a lot of money and are born gamblers at the end of the day.” It is this last category that has led PlayUp to list the PlayChip on more than 20 cryptocurrency exchanges, and counting, over the past 12 months.
“I believe there is no other reason at this point to be in crypto unless you are a high speculator, which is a gambler,” Simic adds. “There is around US$180 billion worth of crypto out there held by people who don’t really have a real use case yet.
“We’re trying to adapt to that market and to get people to know about the PlayChip, the best place to go is the exchanges where the crypto world hangs out. Our crypto model is to get the people who are in crypto world to come and gamble on our sites. We get listed, we turn the products on, we advertise via the exchanges to that audience who already know what the PlayChip is and that gives us a mechanism to train people about what we are.”
Having already established a base in Australia and India, PlayUp is rapidly expanding its interests globally, with a license to operate in the UK and eyes also firmly fixed on the burgeoning US sports betting market.
Likewise, PlayUp’s fantasy sports and eSports products are opening doors across Asia while China itself is a key target in the social gaming space – all brought together via the PlayUp ecosystem.
As Simic explains, “We’re trying to funnel everyone into our ecosystem and then let them do what they need to do from there.”