Technology | Wed Jan 22, 2014 7:44am IST

Two Las Vegas casinos to accept virtual bitcoin currency

REUTERS - Two Las Vegas casino hotels will become the first known U.S. commercial gambling houses to allow the use of the unregulated digital payment system, bitcoin, casino officials said on Tuesday.

The co-owned Golden Gate Hotel and Casino and The D Las Vegas Casino Hotel will begin accepting bitcoins on Wednesday as payment for hotel rooms and related purchases, casino officials said in a statement.

Bitcoin is an online currency bought and sold on a peer-to-peer network that is independent of central authority.

The D will also accept the virtual currency at its gift shop, the American Coney Island restaurant and Joe Vicari's Andiamo Italian Steakhouse.

"Downtown has really become a technology hub for all of Las Vegas," Derek Stevens, co-owner and chief operating officer for both casinos, told Reuters. "I think it is fitting that the Golden Gate and The D are the first hotels to offer (bitcoin)."

Stevens said patrons increasingly had requested to use bitcoins over the past year. By becoming the first known casino hotels to accept the virtual currency, he hoped to attract customers unable to spend bitcoins at other local businesses.

"I think that this is a technology where early adopters have an advantage," he said.

The casinos will install iPads at cashier stations and use the online platform BitPay to process the currency, which can be loaded into a virtual wallet and used with a mobile device.

Since its launch in early 2009, bitcoin has gained popularity with people who lack confidence in conventional banking. Bitcoins have a value determined by the demand for them.

This month, the Sacramento Kings basketball team became the first U.S. professional sports franchise to allow purchases with bitcoins, and Overstock.com reported being the first major retailer to accept the online currency.

BitPay, which enables merchants to allow bitcoins as payment by converting them into U.S. currency, processed more than $100 million worth of transactions in 2013.

The currency has also raised concerns about its potential use in laundering money and for other illegal purposes. Last week, Bitcoin forfeited roughly $27,000 worth of the currency to federal authorities because the funds belonged to the anonymous online black market Silk Road.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Andre Grenon)

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