Bitcoin, released to the world in 2009 by a person or people called Satoshi Nakamoto, is not backed by a central bank or a government and is seen as an alternative payment system. In February 2013, Bitcoin went into the mainstream as a monetary crisis threatened to bankrupt Cyprus, seen as a safer bet. Early adopters of Bitcoin have been richly rewarded as the price has soared – in one case, a young Norwegian bought a house from an $850,000 windfall on a US$22 investment.
Las Vegas casinos to accept bitcoin virtual currency
Customers will be able to use virtual currency to pay for hotel rooms and related purchases
Two Las Vegas casino hotels will become the first known US commercial gambling houses to allow the use of the unregulated digital payment system bitcoin, casino officials said on Tuesday.
The Golden Gate Hotel and Casino and The D Las Vegas Casino Hotel, both belonging to the same owner, began accept- ing bitcoins yesterday as payment for hotel rooms and related purchases, casino officials said.
Bitcoin is an online currency bought and sold on a peer-to-peer network that is independent of central authority.
The D will also accept the virtual currency at its gift shop, the American Coney Island restaurant and Joe Vicari's Andiamo Italian Steakhouse.
"Downtown has really become a technology hub for all of Las Vegas," said Derek Stevens, co-owner and chief operating officer for both casinos. "I think it is fitting that the Golden Gate and The D are the first hotels to offer [bitcoin]."
Stevens said patrons had increasingly requested to use bitcoins over the past year. By becoming the first known casino hotels to accept the virtual currency, he hoped to attract customers unable to spend it at other local businesses.
"I think that this is a technology where early adopters have an advantage," he said.
The casinos will install iPads at cashier stations and use the online platform BitPay to process the currency, which can be loaded into a virtual wallet and used with a mobile device.
Since its launch in early 2009, bitcoin has gained popularity with people who lack confidence in conventional banking. Bitcoins have a value determined by the demand for them.
This month, the Sacramento Kings basketball team became the first US professional sports franchise to allow purchases with bitcoin, and the website Overstock.com reported being the first major retailer to accept the online currency.
BitPay, which enables merchants to allow bitcoins as payment by converting them into US currency, processed more than US$100 million worth of transactions last year.
The currency has also raised concerns about its potential use in laundering money and for other illegal purposes.
Last week, bitcoin forfeited roughly US$27,000 worth of the currency to US federal authorities because the funds belonged to the anonymous online black market Silk Road.