LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — There's a lot of buzz around bitcoin which continues to sit near all-time value highs and the cryptocurrency is moving into mainstream usage in society.
Bitcoin was born in the depths of the Great Recession and financial meltdown of 2008 and 2009.
It was a social experiment which challenged the very idea of currency and who has control over it.
More than a decade later the cryptocurrency, specifically Bitcoin, is taking a big jump in value and in adaptation.
"A few years ago I spent $400 on .3 Bitcoin," said Scott Roeben, founder of VitalVegas.com and amateur Bitcoin investor.
"I literally had no idea what it was, I saw the Bitcoin ATM at The D and I got .3 and now it's worth $10,000," explained Roeben.
Roeben jokes he is far from a seasoned investor and says if he can make that kind of profit, others likely can as well.
"Bitcoin really hasn't had a huge amount of penetration in the world, so I think we're just in the early stages of it and it's pretty cool in a form that even a lay person can understand, if you want to buy it or trade it," said Roeben.
To understand how Bitcoin works, it's important to understand why is was created in the first place.
"The reason that the original cryptocurrency, which is Bitcoin, was created, essentially to prove a point, that a currency could exist without a middleman," explained Jackie Morck, CEO of Totum Block.
Totum Block is a company that helps develop the technology, which supports and makes cryptocurrency possible.
Morck says our current financial system works by people earning money issued by the government.
Banks control and record the transactions using their private ledgers.
But cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, eliminates the government and banks from the equation.
In place of the government and banks are computers and servers which record the transactions using publicly held networks call a blockchain.
The blockchain records and time stamps the transactions and allows the currency to begin moving among people.
"Bitcoin is no different, it's a digital currency that is accepted as having value and that value can be converted to the dollar, so it's no different than us bringing cash from another country and converting it for whatever the exchange rate is," explained Morck.
The exchange rate for Bitcoin has exploded in recent years with dramatic swings both up and down.
In 2009, it was worth 1 cent per unit.
By December 2017, one Bitcoin was valued at more than $19,000.
Weeks later, the value plunged and by December 2018 a single Bitcoin was worth about $3,300.
Fast forward to February 2021, Bitcoin has blasted to new highs close to $42,000 per unit then dropping again settling near $30,0000 per unit.
Recently, prominent people like billionaire Elon Musk have given Bitcoin a boost by giving the cryptocurrency a shout-out in his Twitter bio.
The developments are another step in what experts call social acceptance and trust in the concept of cryptocurrency, namely Bitcoin.
"It's the most primed for a business use case, it's the one today that if a casino wanted to pick up and say 'hey, do we want to let people use their cryptocurrency to gamble with their Bitcoin, is that something we could maybe implement, or is that a value to us," explained Morck.
The answer appears to be yes.
Properties like The D Hotel and Casino and Golden Gate Hotel and Casino currently accept Bitcoin and allow customers to pay for dining, hotel reservations, items at the gift shops and the front desk.
Vegas Auto Gallery, which caters to high end customers and luxury cars, also take Bitcoin as payment.
Additional Bitcoin integration is coming to the Las Vegas experience.
They were recently awarded a Bitcoin-related patent and are posed to use it as regulators look to allow it in gaming.
Already, the Nevada Gaming Commission has opened the door for cashless gaming, using fund transfers right from smartphones directly to gaming machines.
Experts say casinos, or any business taking in Bitcoin, comes with volatility and risk.
"From the casino side, taking in that cryptocurrency, that is a very risky thing for their business to understand how to deal with," said Morck.
"Let's say if someone gambles a dollar and they lose that dollar and now the casino has that dollar and the next day the value of Bitcoin drops and the dollar is only worth $.30 and then the next day after that bitcoin increases and the value of it is potentially $2," explained Morck.
Morck says there is a decision that needs to be made and perhaps a stomach to potentially face loses if the Bitcoin is held instead of immediately converted to the dollar equivalent, also known as "Fiat."
Investors are cashing in on Bitcoin and Morck says there are thousands of other cryptocurrencies that have popped up since 2009.
Experts predict the coming years will bring more social acceptance and adaptation to cryptocurrencies.