(USA TODAY) - Who needs poker chips?
There's a new currency coming to Las Vegas casinos: the Bitcoin.
Starting Wednesday, The D Las Vegas Casino Hotel and Golden Gate Hotel & Casino will begin collecting the digital currency that merchants increasingly are starting to accept.
The two downtown Vegas properties, which share an owner, will accept the currency at five locations, including their front desks and the D's Gift Shop. Guests also can use the currency at the D Hotel's American Coney Island hot dog shop and Joe Vicari's Andiamo Italian Steakhouse.
Alas, they won't be able to gamble with them just yet.
The Bitcoin purchases will be processed through BitPay, which allows merchants to accept Bitcoins just as they would Visa, MasterCard or Paypal.
Bitcoin has been around for years, but it is slowly gaining traction among mainstream merchants. Last week, online discount retailer Overstock.com began accepting Bitcoins.
(USA TODAY) - Bitcoins are not created or distributed by traditional banks. Users buy them through online exchanges and store them in a virtual wallet they can access online. They can make online purchases with their Bitcoins at participating retailers. Or they can make purchases in person at institutions that have the technology to transfer Bitcoins out of someone's virtual wallet.
Jerry Brito, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, says he predicts the use of Bitcoins will catch up partly because they don't come with the types of fees that merchants have to pay for credit card transactions.
Consumers like them because Bitcoin transactions are just as easy and immediate as those made with cash, he says.
"I think we're going to see all kinds of merchants beginning to accept payments using Bitcoins the same way as in the 60s when people only took cash and checks with them, and then credits became popular," he says. "And then PayPal came along."
Bitcoins have not yet been widely accepted in the travel industry. But Derek Stevens, CEO of the D and Golden Gate, says he's willing to take a gamble. It is Vegas, after all.
"I'm proud that the D and Golden Gate will be the first casino properties to accept Bitcoin," Stevens says. "We're located in the growing high-tech sector of downtown Las Vegas, and like all things downtown, we're quickly adaptive to new technology. The timing is right for us to launch this initiative."
Stevens says he decided to accept Bitcoins after several patrons asked him to. Tablets programmed with BitPay will now be installed at each cashier.
Perhaps it is apropos for the Golden Gate to adopt the new technology. Built in 1906, it is Vegas' oldest casino. It was also the first property in the city to install a telephone.
Guests can still look at that 1907 Kellogg telephone in a display case located just steps away from the cashiers that will soon begin processing Bitcoins.