LAS VEGAS -- Imagine an alternative to the U.S. dollar, a virtual currency that could be spent for real items. It's call Bitcoin and this week companies from around the world are in Las Vegas to discuss the future of "crypto-currency."
Bitcoin is growing in a few big markets, like gaming. A Bitcoin is a digital currency without a nationality and is not regulated by the Federal Reserve. Like gold, people watch the exchange rate of a Bitcoin go up and down. Unlike gold, it is not a tangible item.
While there are some concerns, some businesses are banking on Bitcoins for those who love video games. A win used to be just a win, but now, using Bitcoins, a win can have actual value.
"It's as real as what's in your wallet right now," said CEO Kingsley Edwards, Leetcoin Inc.
"We feel like this sort of is a new, new enterprise for the gaming industry," said COO Carson Knuth, Leetcoin Inc.
Leetcoin is a local startup that acts as the middle man for video game players who use the currency. Leetcoin changes gamer wins into virtual Bitcoin money which can be used to buy items by approved vendors.
While it's had it's ups and downs, a Bitcoin is currently worth around $1,000 in U.S. currency. Bitcoin proponents, attending the conference at the MGM in Las Vegas, say the value is expected to grow.
"Over the next 100 years, they're only going to make another nine million Bitcoins. So there's only 18 million bit coins. It becomes a trillion dollar market cap. How valuable is one Bitcoin going to be?" Michael Terpin of BitAngels said.
There were dozens of Bitcoin based businesses represented at the conference to discuss the future of the industry. Crypto-currency businesses say Bitcoins offer benefits traditional dollars do not.
"We're able to do real-time transactions, our members are able to withdrawal immediately instead of having to wait 96 hours," Edwards said.
While there's concern the Bitcoin may be rising too fast, the company believes this is the future of currency.
"Not every company is going to succeed in the Bitcoin industry, but I think the few that do succeed will revolutionize how we view the Internet and currency and everything," Knuth said.
As some people lose confidence in the value of a dollar, Bitcoin may be a step in the right direction.
Technology experts have some concerns about Bitcoins. There's no tangible product. It's just data. Also, unless people are actually spending Bitcoins, they ultimately don't help anyone.
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