Gambling is among the oldest leisure activities in the world. People were gambling with dice and other tools thousands of years ago, just as they gamble today. All different sorts of currencies have changed hands in games of chance – from Ancient Roman aureus were swapped back in years that end with B.C., German marks were gambled before Europe switched the Euro, and U.S. dollars have been gambled for as long as they’ve existed. And, of course, there’s Bitcoin.
Yes, Bitcoin – the cryptocurrency that is used to swap funds back and forth between internet users on a “peer to peer” basis – is now being gambled, too. A casino in South Africa has started accepting Bitcoin deposits and withdrawals. Will other casinos follow? And, if so, will online casinos help spark a revolution in currency?
What the heck is Bitcoin?
A revolution? Well, maybe, but first things first: what the heck is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a currency invented by an anonymous programmer who goes by the name Satoshi Nakamoto. It exists online, where unique addresses denote separate Bitcoins. Bitcoins can be “mined” from “blocks” online, meaning the number of bitcoins keeps increasing – but Satoshi Nakamoto’s code will cap the total number at 21 million sometime around a century from now. This artificial scarcity keeps the Bitcoins’ value high, at least in theory.
The point of Bitcoin is that its users can pay each other for services and goods without having to rely on any government currency. It’s “peer to peer,” meaning person to person without any intermediary – there’s no bank to rely on, for instance, as you would with cashing a check. It’s also anonymous. And since people value it, you can always cash it out for more established currencies – provided you’re willing to do so at the going rate.
The appeal to early adopters is easy to see. An anonymous payment method that keeps banks and governments away is useful for a lot of things (not all of them legal), and a rising new monetary system is appealing to investors.
A new use for Bitcoin
Bitcoin has been in use for less than a decade, but it has already been popularized in certain spheres. It was notoriously popular on Silk Road, an online black market that existed on the darknet (a part of the internet that requires visitors to use specific software in order to gain access – perfect for shady sites that want to avoid prying eyes, as was the case with Silk Road). But plenty of very reputable online services and marketplaces also accept and deal in bitcoin – PayPal, Dish Network, computer parts retailer NewEgg, and many others are also on board.
And so, now, is a casino. Could this be a sign of things to come?
Bitcoins and online gambling: a natural fit
It seems natural that Bitcoin should be used at online casinos. After all, online casinos are just online versions of casinos – and Bitcoin is just an online version of money! Online casinos have grown to become huge and legitimate. Perhaps they can help Bitcoin do the same.
Bitcoin’s internet-savvy fan base likely includes plenty of online gamblers already – in fact, the line between online casinos and Bitcoin gets blurrier when you imagine users putting Bitcoin into PayPal and then using PayPal to fund gambling. And betting on a fledgling currency is a bit of a gamble itself, so there’s no doubt a bit of an overlap here.
And just as there is reason to believe Bitcoin owners would want to gamble online, there’s reason to believe that online casinos would want to accept Bitcoin. If a U.S. online casino followed the lead of the Bitcoin-friendly South African casino, it could get a jump on the competition and become the preferred destination of Bitcoin owners. After that, it’s likely other casinos would follow suit.
The idea isn’t risk-free, of course. Smaller online casinos may be wary of allowing too much Bitcoin into their coffers, as the young currency is volatile. But larger casinos wouldn’t risk as much by allowing Bitcoin, which would likely become only a small part of their holdings. And if more and more casinos open to their doors to Bitcoin, it will help legitimize the currency and, perhaps, give it a bit more stability (or make it increase in value!) – just as the currency was helped when PayPal and other major companies lent it credibility. It’s possible that online casinos could be a part of the growing trend making Bitcoin a respectable currency and investment. What was once the realm of early adopters and risk-loving venture capitalists could someday become the way you pay for your morning coffee – as well as, of course, your chips at the casino.