The popularity of Bitcoin has risen and fallen repeatedly since its inception in 2009. Although it’s used in many industries, it really caught on in online gambling, and has even recently reached into land-based casinos in Las Vegas. Some online casinos will only process withdrawals and deposits in Bitcoin, while others won’t even touch it. A few include it in a full lineup of options, alongside traditional methods like Visa, Neteller, PayPal, or Skrill. If you’ve seen it there or have ventured onto a website, only to be surprised that they’ll only accept you if you deposit in Bitcoin, you’ve probably wondered what it is and if it’s safe. For those of you who are new to the concept of Bitcoin casinos, this simplified guide will help you decide if it’s right for you and how to get started if you think it is. A Simple Explanation of Bitcoin In short, Bitcoin is a virtual currency system that isn’t run by any government agency or official entity. Bitcoin miners, or anyone with the proper software and hardware, can assist in processing transactions and because the system is so diverse, checks and balances are built in. Understanding Bitcoin Terminology Because it’s an entirely new concept, there are many terms associated with Bitcoin that you won’t find anywhere else. For the sake of simplicity, this only covers terms that Bitcoin users should know, and does not explain the more complex backend of the system. Bitcoin - Refers to the entire system of currency or the software used to run it. bitcoin - With a lowercase “b,” it generally references the monetary unit itself. It is sometimes shortened to BTC. Wallet -Bitcoin wallets are similar to other virtual wallets. They contain your bitcoins, or rather the addresses of your bitcoins, and are usually found in the form of desktop programs, apps, online storage, or physical hardware. Address - A Bitcoin address is a string of numbers and letters used to send or receive bitcoins and should only be used once. Private Key - Each Bitcoin address comes with a private key which is stored in the receiver’s wallet and can prove bitcoin ownership. How to Get Bitcoins There are three ways you can obtain bitcoins. As a newcomer, you can buy them on an exchange, purchasing them with real currency. As a second option, you can have someone transferbitcoins to you in a transaction. Bitcoin miners can also earn them from solving the mathematical equations needed to process transactions. Why Bitcoin Casinos are Great One of the greatest benefits to using a Bitcoin casino is that there usually aren’t any transaction fees, since miners receive bitcoins from solving equations. In a traditional casino, there is generally a charge from Visa, Paypal, or whichever service is used. Sometimes the casino pays them on your behalf, while other operators pass the bill to you. Without this fee, the casino’s operational costs are much lower, so they can afford to run bigger promotions and offer better bonuses. Bitcoin is also anonymous, so operators who utilize it as their only accepted from of payment need little, if any, personal data from you. The Downside to Bitcoin As a currency, Bitcoin is unstable. It can gain and lose value very quickly- sometimes 100-dollar fluctuations occur within a week or less. At publication, 1 bitcoin is equal to 229 US dollars, 286.88 Canadian dollars, 202.39 euros, or 150.43 British pounds. It had relatively little exchange value until 2013 and peaked in value near the end of that year, with some reports claiming the value of 1 BTC had climbed to over 1,000 US dollars each. Additionally, there is no agency to oversee the system, nor is there anyone backing the funds, or to guarantee the funds in your wallet. There have been instances of exchanges failing, like Mt. Gox, which was hacked and lost 460 million dollars, according to an article in Wired Magazine. A CNN report covered the story of a British man who tossed his hard drive containing 9 million dollars-worth of bitcoins in the trash. These are funds which will never be returned and cannot be recovered. Many people see the flaws within the system and fear the risk is just too great. Are Bitcoin Casinos Safe? There’s no for-sure answer to whether Bitcoin casinos are safe. If it’s a regulated casino, which has to follow specific guidelines for safety, integrity, and security, the casino, itself, can be a very safe option. In some cases, using Bitcoin can add to the security of your transactions, because the casino does not need your personal information. However, you might have trouble if you deposit using Bitcoin and then later try to exchange it for real cash, considering that the value of Bitcoin varies. Therefore, it’s up to you to decide whether a Bitcoin casino is a gamble you’re willing to take.