Bitcoin offers the possibility of convenience, acceptance, and fungibility across all participating casinos. Imagine placing a bet at a craps table by scanning a QR code on the felt for, respectively, the come line or placing a six or eight. Winnings could then be paid back to the same address from which the bitcoins came. The same basic system could be used in blackjack, roulette, or even Texas Hold’em (with a public tally showing the size of the pot, but not the originating addresses). Picture no stacks of chips needing to be guarded and no casino cages. Bitcoin could be the universal casino chip, only more portable, convenient, and secure.
Of course, this seems fanciful now. There are regulatory—and likely customer—barriers to such a proposal. But some bitcoin entrepreneurs are
actively engaging with the land-based gaming industry. For them, bitcoin has a promising future in gaming writ- large. Bitmarkers, a bitcoin startup in the US, aims to provide a source of liquidity through gaming markers at Las Vegas casinos. One of the ideas behind Bitmarkers is to take deposits from gamblers denominated in bitcoin that can be used at participating casinos for casino credit. At the end of a session of play, the player can buy back her marker or leave the amount to be settled from bitcoins on account with Bitmarkers.
According to Bitmarkers CEO Ardon Lukasiewicz, the concept has received positive feedback from land-based casinos and the Nevada regulatory issues are being fully considered. Lukasiewicz thinks that he could have “the deepest and best source of liquidity in Las Vegas for gamblers.”
The recent Senate hearings and run-up in bitcoin’s price may augur well for the virtual currency. FinCEN and the US Department of Justice appear to believe that no new laws are needed to regulate bitcoin and that those bodies are doing just fine with the tools that they have.
Accordingly, gaming regulators may be prepared to become more engaged with bitcoin. Time will tell if that’s true. Meanwhile, the power of a decentralized virtual currency is there; we may well have only scratched the surface of what it can offer to land-based gaming.
Stuart Hoegner is a gaming and virtual currencies attorney based in Toronto. He is general counsel to the Bitcoin Alliance of Canada. He can be reached through his firm's website at gamingcounsel.co.