Various Gaming Companies Have Mixed Acceptance Of Bitcoin

Posted By Paul Bergeron on February 18, 2021

Bitcoin, casinos and gamblers seem like a match made in heaven. After all, their personalities are three of a kind: risk, wealth, number crunching. The popular cryptocurrency topped $51,000 on Feb. 17, adding even more shine to its lure of financial wealth.

The highly volatile and wildly speculative cryptocurrency has been creating immense riches for some of its supporters during the past four months in particular – bitcoin has nearly quadrupled since September. Not a bad evening at the craps table, huh?

It’s an investment gamble by those holders, no doubt, but it’s worth asking: When could bitcoin’s “dollars” be transferable in the casino or on a betting app? Perhaps, sooner than you think.

Always looking for a clever new pull to bring in customers, it seems the day could soon come to gaming industry marketing campaigns hoping to attract such risky players who made thousands – if not millions – in bitcoin investments.

Bitcoin buyers tend to be loyal and spend more, said Jeff Klee, chief executive of CheapAir.com, which has been accepting bitcoin since 2013. Klee sites a “wealth effect” where sales have increased when bitcoin’s value has risen, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Penn National Gaming has 41 operations in 19 states. Senior Vice President, Public Affairs & Government Relations Eric Schippers says “We are looking at all deposit/withdrawal opportunities in order to ensure the best user experience for our customers. Crypto is very interesting, and we are just beginning to evaluate the right approach in this space.”

So, much like winning big on a longshot bet in the Kentucky Derby futures pool placed months before the first Saturday in May, those who bought-in over the years have carried a nice bottom line. The number who are backing this mostly precious “metal” today is growing, even though many on Main Street mostly only recall the crazy run and abrupt reversal it had around 2017 when so many people got burned.

People “love” bitcoin

Just for fun, let’s look at the historical price of and astonishing growth of bitcoin on Valentine’s Day, per @documentingBTC:

  • 2021: $49,000
  • 2020: $10,242
  • 2019: $3,569
  • 2018: $9,031
  • 2017: $1,008
  • 2016: $397
  • 2015: $247
  • 2014: $632
  • 2013: $26
  • 2012: $5
  • 2011: $1
  • 2010: 5¢

But isn’t that just like the casino player who stayed for one too many spins or roll of the dice? Casinos – especially sportsbooks – analyze the numbers continually, more often than not to their advantage. They will “do the math” and customers never cease to try to beat the odds.

Hot and cold reception of bitcoin

We reached out to the leading US-based casinos as well as FanDuel and DraftKings for comment. As of now, they are holding their cards close to their vests – or not holding cards as all – as they passed or did not respond to requests for them to share any plans that might be in the works.

Other high-rollers are. In just the past 10 days, Mastercard, PayPal, Morgan Stanley and even Elon Musk have pitched positive about bitcoin. Bank of New York Mellon Corp., the nation’s oldest bank, is making the leap into bitcoin, signaling broader acceptance of the digital currency

Yet not everyone is 100% sold on the largely unregulated asset. When an analyst last week asked General Motors to weigh in on bitcoin, its CEO Mary Barra said, “We don’t have any plans to invest in Bitcoin, so full stop there.” But if buyers start pushing to pay in Bitcoin, she said, the company might consider it.

Miami’s Mayor is taking steps to allow bitcoin to be a form of payment option to his city’s workers, and to attract new business to his city.

“I firmly believe that when and if Amazon and or Apple adopts bitcoin as a payment structure the dam will essentially break because at that point, you’re talking about a very high volume of transactions being able to use bitcoin,” Mayor Francis Suarez told Yahoo! “I just wanted us to be on the cutting edge and sort of ahead of the game.”

WSJ reports that for users who might want to buy something small, say a $9 burrito, bitcoin is an unattractive payment option because of the associated fees. The median transaction fee is currently around $5.40, according to BitInfoCharts.com, but the average is more than $11, and has been as high as $17 in the past three months. Therefore, its use as of now makes more sense when applied to large purchases.

Capital gains taxes also factor into bitcoin’s use because the Internal Revenue Service classifies bitcoin as property rather than currency, users selling bitcoin, no matter the reason, are subject to capital gains taxes on that transaction.

Among the few retailers that currently accept bitcoin, payments in the cryptocurrency tend to comprise about 5% of total sales, WSJ adds.

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Working its way into the gambling space

Ryan Reddy, IGT vice president, VLT, systems and payments products, says IGT’s recent patent related to cryptocurrency, “secures for our company the ability to bolster our patent portfolio in anticipation of any possible future direction in regulated gaming involving cryptocurrency.” IGT is not currently aware of any casinos that are pursuing bitcoin acceptance.

Bitcoin could also touch the fast-developing technology behind cashless gaming in casinos. IGT ushered in a new era of cashless gaming last month when it gained Nevada regulatory approval for its Resort Wallet.

The module allows for the expansion of the wallet, with it being deployed throughout the state, enabling customers to give their casino patrons the option of a reduced-contact, safer, and more efficient cashless slot gaming experience.

“Resort Wallet ensures that our customers can experience the increased liquidity, player convenience, and enhanced safety that only cashless gaming can deliver,” Reddy said.

The approved Resort Wallet carded cashless module grants players the ability to use a loyalty card to transfer cash into a secure digital wallet from either the casino cash desk or any Resort Wallet-enabled slot machine.

It seems a matter of time before casinos find loyalty in bitcoin.

Photo by Charles Krupa / Associated Press
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Paul Bergeron

Paul Bergeron is a freelance reporter based in Herndon, Va. His 30-year career includes positions in the sports department at daily newspapers, including The Washington Post; and association publications related to the apartment industry. Currently, he writes regularly for the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), commercial real estate firm CoStar and various industry blogs from his Thought Leadership Today platform on LinkedIn. He can be reached at [email protected]

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