There has been much talk of Bitcoin over the last 18 months, from a market boom to a market bust and how this “anonymous” money can be attractive across various markets.
But certainly, the reasons why gambling websites are seeing payment with the currency rise are even more fascinating. Gina Clarke talks to *Steve to find out just why Bitcoin gambling is so attractive.
Steve is in his 40’s, he is in a long-term relationship with no children, and his salary hovers around £50,000 ($67,000). He often spends nights away due to his job in communications, and he decided to start playing online slots around three years ago, when he was traveling through various hotels.
He would only play while away but, as the stakes got higher, it was rarely a £10 flutter he was waging. Steve admits: “I now stake around £1000 a week.” Luckily, he finds he is often on the receiving end, but the larger the amounts, the more Steve feels the need to hide his nocturnal activity.
Pay to play
With standard betting sites, you need to go through identification checks that are carried out whenever you enter your card details. Effectively, the bank has to say that it’s you before any money can be deposited. But Steve found out is that, with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, that check isn’t made. While Bitcoin transactions are stored publicly on an electronic ledger, unless you know who owns the coins, it is very hard to trace, especially for a long-term girlfriend!
Steve said: “I’m at that stage in life where things are settled. I have a little bit of extra cash to have fun with the money that I accumulated through gambling, which I see as mine. Sometimes I like to add to it if I’ve had a particularly bad night, although most of the time I play with my pot of winnings – it’s a fun habit for me to indulge in. But it’s not something I want to talk about at home.”
How easy is it to play with Bitcoin?
When Steve heard that he could now buy his morning coffee with Bitcoin, he started to wonder what else he could spend the money on. With online slots and casino firms now advertising their use of cryptocurrency, he found it easy to sign up and start playing.
Unsurprisingly, several casino operators have jumped on the crypto bandwagon, although most of them will only let you play with a low limit, due to the volatile nature of the currency.
You will often find that max bets range from between $1,000 (£745) to $5,000 (£3724), and the cash-out figures are just as low. Plus, expect a withdrawal charge of around 2%.
However, some sites will let you play with a variety of cryptocurrencies and reach that elusive $10,000 (£7448) bet with no transactional fees.
Steve says: “I’m not great with currencies, so I only play with what I’ve won, it helps me focus on an evening, and I find myself making friends in the various rooms. It certainly beats pay per TV!”
What other currencies are available
These days, it’s not just Bitcoin. Its sister Litecoin is also gaining value, as is Ethereum. All use digital ledgers that make it difficult to trace the original owner, so cryptocurrency is certainly becoming the payment of choice for many.
However, most online operators are wary of the fluctuations in the market and the lack of legal regulation. Until this is firmed up, it’s unlikely to see operators using the currencies in any high-roller stakes.
Steve’s “little secret” brings him immense joy. “Everything we do these days is public and on social media. From what we eat to what we watch and where we go on a weekend. For me, it’s nice to have this little club that I’m a part of. I’m not technically minded in the least but setting up a Bitcoin wallet on my computer is very simple, even for the likes of me. And once I saw that operators were welcoming Bitcoin bets it made an evening in even more attractive.
“It’s not something I’ll be giving up any time soon.”
*Steve’s name has been changed to protect his privacy.