As of June 2019, no major online casino has taken the step to accept Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. Gaming is a highly competitive industry, so you might expect one or more of the big operators to make a move in order to steal a march on their rivals. Despite constant rumours, however, there has been no indication that any of the major brands are ready to take that plunge.
Of course, the mainstreaming of crypto is one of the major questions of our time. Financial reporting in 2019 has been full of reports on the likes of Facebook exploring the viability of its own digital currency. Investors are also constantly scouring the news for signs that Amazon is ready to embrace it in some form.
The viability of casinos is an interesting question. In terms of payment options, they already offer a plethora of methods. For example, you can see when you register at casino.com that everything from internet wallets to credit cards and paying via your phone bill is covered. Yet, accepting crypto payments might present some challenges, downsides for both player and operator.
Processing Times a Challenge
First of all, the speed of processing. Online casinos promote themselves on the strength of super-fast processing of payments. In short, your money needs to be available instantly. Even if the average transaction time of a Bitcoin is one hour, it goes against the ethos of most online casinos.
Secondly, there is the pressure from authorities. Few industries are under as much scrutiny as the online betting and gaming industry. That’s not a bad thing, because – as long as an operator is licenced by a body like the UKGC – you know you will be playing safely.
However, in a regulated market like the UK, the industry has been forced to be transparent in an effort to combat money laundering and fraud. Most of us have no problem with transparency, but is it compatible with crypto transactions?
Yet, the bottom line must still centre on volatility. Whatever way we look at it, investing in crypto – or any other financial product – is fundamentally a form of gambling. Depositing Bitcoin to play at a casino is, therefore, a double whammy. Consider that most casino players play on weekends, and Bitcoin’s biggest swings have usually been on weekends. Even an hour’s play at a casino might be problematic if Bitcoin has a particularly volatile period.
Profit Margins at Stake
Indeed, despite old mantras like “the house always wins”, it is sometimes overlooked how tight the profit margins are at a casino – both online and land-based casinos. Most virtual blackjack games have an RTP of around 99.5%, making the theoretical house edge somewhere in the region of 0.5%. You can appreciate how a single gaming session when playing with Bitcoin might nullify any advantage the casino has in that respect.
Moreover, it would also be possible for the casino player to lose in a gaming session, but still make a profit by leaving the Bitcoin idle in the casino wallet for a period. It’s not quite clear how a casino will adapt to these challenges, but you could possibly see any future casinos only allowing deposits in Bitcoin and ensuring that withdrawals are made in standard currencies.
In the end, a few years from now we will probably see cryptocurrencies as a viable option for casinos. Arguably, that will be through some sort of newly created stablecoin, or that Bitcoin has mainstreamed to such an extent that the aforementioned issues have been overcome.