Is Bitcoin responsible for making Internet gambling legal in the United States? On April 15h, 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice shut down three of the largest poker sites accessible to U.S. players. It was a dark day for online poker players in the U.S. Player accounts were completely frozen, leaving people without access to their money. It was a sudden move that surprised almost everyone.
New gambling sites are accepting Bitcoin. This online currency could allow American players to avoid getting into legal trouble. There are complex laws in the U.S. that disallow businesses to knowingly accept money transfers for the purposes of Internet gambling. Because these online casinos use Bitcoin, they’re not going through banks in the U.S. – it’s all p2p. So, the attitude is that nothing wrong is being done.
Many international online casinos don’t allow U.S. players to play with cash, but they do allow them to gamble with Bitcoins. Bitcoins are popular regardless of their ability to theoretically circumvent U.S. law. Bitcoins reduce the time it takes players to cash out. Bank transactions can take several days or weeks. Players who use Bitcoins get a payout in a couple of hours. That’s a huge difference.
It’s not yet clear wither the U.S. government will go after gambling sites that allow U.S. players to gamble with Bitcions. Bitcoin gaming sites are popping up all the time, but it might not be very long before the U.S. government goes after them. Like most things on the Internet, a lot of it involves playing catch-up.
Some international casino owners say that they’re not letting Americans gamble with Bitcoins because they don’t want to take any chances. Why would they risk their whole business getting shut down, just to get access to the American gambling market? However, it’s a risk that some international online casino owners are willing to take, apparently.
Casino owners are betting big on unregulated Bitcoin gambling sites. More than 50% of global Bitcoin transactions are bets placed on gambling sites. Online gambling sites handle billions of dollars in wagers each year.
Bitcoin is growing and changing so fast that regulators are having a difficult time keeping track of it. No one really knows what the future of Bitcoin gambling sites are. If some of them are designated as breaking the law, they could be shut down, but they remain open for now.