Monday March 3,2014 : BITCOIN LIKELY TO KEEP ROLLING
Despite a volatile exchange rate and the collapse of its biggest exchange, the virtual currency is still being used in online gambling transactions.
The complete anonymity of virtual currency Bitcoin transactions, allied to fast pay-outs, low transfer fees and transparency continues to attract bitcoin online gamblers despite the volatile nature of its relationship to hard currencies and the recent failure of the Mt. Gox exchange in Japan.
For online gambling operators, Bitcoin has some appeal because transactions are immediate and irreversible, eliminating the risk of chargeback fraud. For the punters, especially in the USA, Bitcoin removes the anxiety associated with deposit and withdrawal delays – there are no bank wires or e-processing hassles because Bitcoin is itself a payment processor.
Whilst the virtual currency is used in a number of sectors, the publication PBS reports that more than half of global Bitcoin transactions are wagers on internet gambling sites like SealswithClubs, Just-dice and Satoshi Dice.
The latter is probably the best known of Bitcoin-based gambling enterprises. Founded in April 2012 by Erik Voorhees, the site was sold to an anonymous buyer just over a year later for 126,315 Bitcoins – then worth around $12.4 million, a valuation which soared to $70 million at one point as the virtual currency see-sawed up and down in the informal market.
PBS reports that the anonymity of Bitcoin transactions attracts big betters, including one whale on the Just-dice site who dropped the equivalent of almost a million dollars, the transactions watched by international railbirds via the registered Bitcoin public ledger, known as the blockchain.
“The whale's transactions were anonymous, but as public as a scoreboard at a high-school football game,” PBS notes, reporting that Just-dice has handled the equivalent of more than $2 billion in wagers since it was founded in June 2013.
According to PBS, the rise of Bitcoin has occurred over a relatively short period, and has left regulators struggling to understand and come to grips with the virtual currency. Most US experts believe that the legality or otherwise of Bitcoin wagering is debateable, and to date the authorities do not seem to have taken any overt action against the use of the currency in this sector.
Moves to block US players such as those carried out by Satoshi Dice were motivated by proactive caution to minimise risk rather than official action, and Voorhees has been candid in saying that he sold the enterprise to avoid any possibility of a run in at some point with US authorities.
In the US, the laws of individual states are those that count in gambling, and PBS notes that none of the states have laws specifically banning Bitcoin.
"The clearest anti-gambling laws regulate payment processors that would funnel winnings from the operators to the betters. But Bitcoin is a decentralised payment processing system. So there’s no person or organisation to prosecute,” the publication reports.
Learned online gambling legal expert Prof. I. Nelson Rose told PBS that even if Bitcoin could be regulated, Bitcoin – or the various organisations that speak for it – could argue that they’re just like the U.S. Treasury – separate from the activities people use Bitcoins for.
“If it’s not money, it’s not gambling,” said Rose.
Concluding with something of a clincher, PBS says that in the wake of the Mt. Gox bankruptcy the chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, said that the Fed doesn’t have any authority to regulate the virtual currency.