2013 was the year of the Bitcoin. From a novelty online thingamajig that only a few people knew of, it grew into a legitimate virtual currency that is worth millions of dollars today. In January 2013, the price of a single bitcoin is just over $13, a year later, its price has ballooned to nearly $1000/bitcoin. Even the Winklevoss twins (the pair who famously sued Mark Zuckerberg for ownership of Facebook) has invested heavily into a bitcoin e-commerce portal, stating that “bitcoin is worth a thousand times more” than its currrent price.
There seems to be no stopping bitcoin’s momentum. Though there have been a few kinks- for example, the brief closure of the online drug marketplace Silk Road in October last year- that made a few bitcoin users a little wary, bitcoin’s status as a currency seems to become more and more stable as time goes by. Its value has now stabilized around $900 to $1000 per bitcoin.
Online businesses are now steadily adopting bitcoin as a valid form of payment for transactions. But another industry is now turning their sights on the currency- the online gambling industry.
Jeremy Liew of Lightspeed Ventures has written a blog post that states that almost 50% of all bitcoin transactions are from gambling websites, most especially, the bitcoin-oriented SatoshiDice. Named after Satoshi Makamoto, the mysterious founder/s of the bitcoin protocol, SatoshiDice gives its players a chance to win small amounts of bitcoin by engaging them in a simple dice game. Transactions are instantaneous; players receive their winnings in their bitcoin wallets as soon as their game is over.
The anonymity and convenience provided by bitcoin makes it a perfect option for online gambling websites, especially those based in the United States. Online gambling has been outlawed for some time now, and the closure of three large poker websites in 2011, basically wiped out all hope in the industry.
But bitcoin isn’t regulated by any federal or monetary authority. It’s use is solely controlled by people who use it. This means that bitcoin usage can’t be subjected to any law that applies to government-issued money; it’s “legal” in every sense of the word. And it is for this reason why online gambling in the US seems to have found its savior in the form of this newfangled cryptocurrency.
As the value of bitcoin rose, so did the popularity of gambling websites that heavily rely on the virtual currency for payments. Along with Satoshi Dice, poker sites such as Seals With Clubs, Satoshi Poker, and Bits Poker have enjoyed a surge in traffic when bitcoin gained traction in mainstream media.
And the most interesting here is that these sites have fully embraced their bitcoin-driven environment. Since its conception, bitcoin has always enjoyed a connection with controversial entities such as Anonymous, Silk Road, and the TOR Network. Now these new gambling sites proudly proclaim their connection with these scions of anonymity. On the front page of Satoshi Poker, there is a picture of a man with cards wearing a Guy Fawkes mask- the symbol of Anonymous- as if urging online gamblers to rebel against the status quo.