Breaking Bad on the Dark Web: Gambling With Bitcoin in the Shadows

There are depths to every surface in this world. Some run to untold extremes. Such is the extent of the Deep Web. Its undercurrents rumble with rehashed Nigerian scams, smash-and-grab thefts on the unregulated dark markets, illegal big-money trading (arms, drugs, credit card information), pedophilia, hitmen with a license and unlicensed cryptocurrency fixed matches and Dark Web gambling.

The latter provides the go-to online black market for underage gamblers, punters who cannot place a bet legally due to strict local regulations, card sharks with a taste for some bleeding bitcoin, and site admins who will either con you for all your worth or send you spiralling into the high world of the digital nouveau riches.

Gambling in the uncatalogued, unindexed, predatory waters of the Dark Web will have you hold your breath for your return on investment. So how deep can your expectations freedive? 

You could wait in vain, just as the world has been hungering for another Eddie Murphy full-cast flick. It will probably never see the light of screen again and, if it does, there’s little chance it will cash in as a blockbuster.

Browsing the Deep Web

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It could easily be a deeply disturbed killer who tosses aliases around- the Deep Web, the Dark Net, the Black Internet- for a bit of media notoriety or in order to play with the sanity of the hard-boiled true detective who’s been the case for decades.

In this noir scenario, the Dark Web has to happen; same as the original sin. A society cannot properly function without the cracks and rabbit holes of vice, and the mirroring digital world acts only as a natural concomitant of the dark moods flowing below the virtual waterline.  

The average user thinks he knows the Internet. But most of us limit our explorations in the familiar neighborhood of social media, Netflix, online shopping, booking flights to exotic locations or paying our bills.

Rent a Hacker or Hire a Hitman? The Dark Web Delivers

We’ve established who the decent folk are, but what about the criminal mindset? How does the Internet fit the colorful assortment of bad guys who don’t want to be tracked down the digital gutters?

The depth of these password-encrypted and membership-only sites is placed at 500 times the size of the visible net indexed by search engines like Google and Bing.

The equivalent of taking a trip to the dark side would be a visit to North Korea. It may seem you’re free to browse (at your own risk) in no man’s land but eyes are watching from behind the wall paintings.

The facts beyond the fiction are these, however:

  • In the prehistoric times of the World Wide Web ( or 1970 Anno Internet), there was ARPANET. The network was utilized by the US government as a platform for data sharing.
  • Fast forward a decade later, and ARPANET took worldwide dimensions. Thus, a few less jarring caps later, the Internet was born.
  • In 1991, the user switched from sending and receiving information to storing it online in the format of web pages.
  • Still a sci-fi tool, the Internet was open ground for exploration. The demand was there, but many lost their way trying to navigate the web. Google supplied a much-needed map to help the user track his searches.
  • Despite Google’s alleged omniscience, this primary search engine can’t spot all the nooks and crannies of the ever expanding cyberspace. Out of its reach looms the Deep Web- the web pages that do not have a direct link in Google's massive search library.
  • When users felt the need to mask their IPs and navigate the web outside the law (much like pirates who avoided detection), the TOR Network appeared as a collection of volunteer networks whose code of honor was anonymity.
  • The Deep Web consists of a string of peer-to-peer connections. That way, users can communicate and share files directly where the law is less vigilant.
  • The Deep Web can only be accessed with a specialized browser such as I2P, Tor, or other Onion Routers.
  • A 2014 study by England’s University of Portsmouthreports that 80% of visits to the Dark Net are about child pornography.
  • Contrary to what you may have heard, the Dark Web is not all bad. WikiLeaks uses it as a platform for whistleblowers who want to share sensitive, highly classified information to the general public.
  • In countries that censor mainstream sites like YouTube and Facebook- just make a trip to China or Iran to understand the scarcity of information there- users can use the Deep Web to access these sites securely.
  • The worst of the Darknet came in the unindexed mission statement of Silk Road. This infamous TOR site, also known as the Amazon of Drugs, broke bad in 2011 and sold high-grade drugs to full tilt until the FBI shut it down in 2013 in a rare cyber crime sweep on the Dark Web. Its founder, a 29-year old Web developer who went under the alias Dread Pirate Roberts, received a life sentence prison term.

Where one pirate fell, another came to claim the bounty. After all, the Darknet hydra boasts countless heads.

Agora Marketplace, Nucleus Marketplace, and Evolution activated once their main competitor, the Silk Road, ended up behind bars.

The latter site’s owners, however, managed to scam their user base, steal millions of dollars in bitcoins and escape to some tropical haven where the FBI, the CIA, or any other acronymical enforcement agency had no interest in tracking down.

Illicit drug trade on the Dark Web keeps even lower company, as other types of underground operations you can find on TOR are:

  • Child pornography
  • Pirated software and private data transactions
  • Weapons trading
  • Sale of forged documents, counterfeit money, stolen credit card information, etc.
  • Hiring hitmen
  • Engaging in cannibalism
  • Money laundering
  • Human experiments of the Doctor Mengele type.
  • Pay-per-View torture, abuse, rape, and crime
  • Fixed match buy-in
  • Unlicensed gambling

The 50 Shades of Data Privacy

Not long ago, a question popped up on Quora: “Is there any gambling on the deep web?” The inquirer was greeted with warnings not to foolishly gamble on unlicensed, unindexed casinos.

Since they advertise on the deep web, it seems scamming is almost a prerogative of these hidden gambling dens. Operating outside the law, after all, turns into a birth right where the one rule is… there are no rules. 

Everything on the Dark Web should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Tor may allow you to obfuscate your IP address in order to cover your tracks. It’s a measure of privacy-protection for those weary of the governmental conspiracies or users who want to be ensconced in a lawless virtuality, but other predators await in the inner recesses.

Scammers, hackers, thieves or online casinos, each digital evil family trying to piffle some bitcoins from naïve punters. In the end, it’s just a matter of whose prying eyes you’d less offer a peak into your affairs: the law enforcement’s or the villains?

Corruption in Sports Betting

For the right price, you can even fix a match on the Dark Web. Just name your game.

Soccer, boxing, the NBA, and the list stretches as far as ancient times when, according to a dusty papyrus, even the most highly acclaimed Egyptian wrestlers would take a dive because the gangsters of the Nile Valley paid good dough (the literal version of the word) to see it happen.

Fixed match buy-ins on the Dark Web have been denounced as the plague of sports and UEFA’s “number one threat”.

There’s no doubt that professional matches do get fixed. In 2014, FIFA and the International Criminal Police Organization joined forces to analyze the width and depth of sports corruption.

The report concluded that match fixing, a practice deeply rooted in the world of organized crime, happened in over 80 countries and on various levels of play.

No Pain, No Gain

Dark Web betting sites like FMBI may require a $20,000 buy-in and half of the proceedings to go into the site’s private wallet, but they promise a 2 to 1 payout. However, there’s also the bullshit factor to consider.

Scammers roam the backalleys of the DarkNet and have become quite astute at drawing in naïve gamblers with claims (and sometimes offering tips and freebies as proof of a safe deal) that they can buy your way into the fix.

Bettors are asked to either pay directly to the service or employ a Dark Web escrow service (a middleman third-party that operates as the central bank of these anonymous bitcoin transactions).

Every gambler who doles out his bitcoins over TOR’s black market tacitly agrees to this veil of anonymity, despite the risk or, better said, because of the risk. It’s like marking your chips in an underground, shark-infested game of Texas Hold’em, somewhere in the backyard of the Vegas mob.

Bitcoin Gambling

One day in 2006, the Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. In its wake, online bettors found their payments refused by casinos.

Two years later, bitcoin surfaced to fill the appetite of starving gamblers.

The move was meant to discourage the growing trend of online gambling but it only managed to unwillingly bury the practice in the depths of cyberspace.

Bitcoins were a risk to begin with. After all, you’re buying digital coins that ellude all senses (who doesn’t miss the old days of smelling the greens in a pure act of greed and Wall Street delusion?) and that plays as main currency on the black market of the Dark Web.

When Silk Road fell in June of 2011, Bitcoin value tumbled to over 90% of its value in November. Investing may not be risk, but not being in control sure is.

Bitcoins and other funky-named virtual copper (check out Cannabiscoin or Quartz) are a bet on the future.

To millennials, greenhorn investors and anonymous anarchists, they speak of a decentralised digital Wall Street that works independent of federal regulation, government control, or the personal ventures of the high rollers of the finance industry.

And bitcoins fit the bill of unregulated wagers. Easy to move around and boasting lower credit card fees than most banks, cryptocurrency serves the Dark Web’s modern virtual bazaars.

A Bitcoin magazine survey of Bitcoin casinos from 2013 reports that investors have been earning up to $610,000 per month. Inside the speculative, bustling market of digital coins, those numbers are most likely true.

Accordingly, blackjack, poker, bets on presidential elections, or dice games have skyrocketed to popularity in recent years. However, the Dark Web is not impervious to governmental crackdowns or astute legislation.

Governments could outsmart bitcoin gambling sites and beat them at their own game. Wherein lies the royal flush? In legalizing online gambling in all states and applying the Native American loose gambling regulations to other brick-and-mortar and online startup casinos.

The methodology is called “disrupting the disruptor” and it could mean a game-changer for unregulated gambling.

But that would imply we expect Maverick skills from good ol’Uncle Sam. Or has he been showing up his cards all along only to flatter the fools?

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Shaky Truce Between the Surface Web and the Dark Net

For the time being, the forces of the Dark Web and the regulatory surface Internet have agreed to a tacit armistice. If you find yourself in the middle, remember this.

Real knowledge is to know the extent of our ignorance. So know that your ignorance can go as deep as the 95% unexplored realms of the Dark Web.

The infamous anonymous sites powering up Deep Web gambling tend to proliferate in a never-ending race for financial prowess and informational control while exuding the dark charisma of the anti-hero. To strip them of their anonymity would expose both criminals and undercover journalists or privacy activists to all kinds of elements. Who would take such a gamble?