Bitcoin and Gambling – How Legal is the Relationship?


Bitcoin has almost single-handedly revolutionized online gambling. An increasing number of casinos now accept Bitcoin payments and you can read more on these casinos here. However, there is no denying that a lot still needs to be done and appropriate policies put in place to create uniformity. While levelling the playing field, it also is important to clarify the legality of using Bitcoin in online casinos, and most especially, in areas that have not so very black and white gambling regulations.

Not many users are bothered about the relationship between online casinos and Bitcoin. Still, this issue needs a closer look; at least not so much with regards to the U.K. but rather the U.S. where almost every state holds a slightly diverging opinion and sets of regulations to tackle or regulate real money online casino gambling. While gambling isn’t illegal at the federal level, at least technically, some states have made it illegal. What is funny is that despite this ban, there are no clear rules regarding the method used to fund the gambling activity.

This rather huge grey area has brought even greater divergence in the manner in which people interpret the basic law. Some believe that Bitcoin has succeeded in helping gamblers to circumvent the law that prevents entrepreneurs from opening offshore casinos online and proceed to take cash bets in the United States. The reasoning behind this argument is that no recognized Bitcoin company exists and regulators are at a loss as to where to direct their laws. The authorities, however, think that this is nothing more than an attempt by gamblers to throw spanner in the works.

There is another intriguing take; that authorities take Bitcoin for a commodity and not a currency. This is despite the fact that Bitcoin is a recognized digital currency that is easily accepted as a standard payment option. This intriguing premise, as such, dismisses the notion that gambling using Bitcoin is illegal.

However, the law seems unclear in many countries not just the United States. In Australia, for instance, companies aren’t allowed to provide online gambling products to the residents of Australia. However, online sports betting is legal. Further, Australians can engage in gambling activities as long as its offshore. China has a slightly different take, but one that is just as confusing. All forms of gambling are illegal except for the national lottery. But, Macau, a specialized Chinese administrative area, can offer Chinese all the gambling services they want, and, it is legal, even having the biggest casino in the world at The Venetian.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of the United States only criminalizes bank-to-online-gambling-portal transactions. Because this legislation only singles out banks and credit card products by extension, people that rely on digital currencies seemingly, are free do as they wish.

The laws governing online gambling are becoming ever more obscure. But this needs not be the case since even gamblers deserve an environment that spells out the terms of engagement in a clear manner. With the continued penetration of Bitcoin in particular and digital currencies in general, this clarity is now necessary more than ever. Hopefully, it will come sooner rather than later.