If you want to play, there’s a new way to pay.
One of the biggest obstacles to convenient online gambling – especially in states that don’t have legal domestic options of their own – is the account funding process.
While just about anyone in America can sign up at any number of reputable offshore casino and sports betting sites (provided they’re 18 years of age or older), successfully moving money into their accounts is a different story.
In fact, the process can sometimes be a major nuisance.
Recently, however, there’s been a big push to promote an instant pay service called Zelle for prepaid gambling deposits, which promises to go a long way towards streamlining that process.
What is Zelle?
Zelle is an instant pay service that competes with PayPal’s Venmo, offering peer-to-peer payment options for anyone who has a Zelle account. Which is to say, pretty much everyone.
That’s because Zelle is supported by nearly every mainstream regional and national bank in the United States.
In fact, Zelle is owned by several of the biggest banks in the country, including Bank of America, Capital One, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, PNC Bank, US Bank, Wells Fargo, and others.
And Zelle’s even more ubiquitous than that. With over 100 corporate partners – including Visa and Mastercard – Zelle has become the foremost instant payment system in the US. While Zelle’s active membership is still smaller than PayPal’s, the volume of American transactions that use Zelle dwarf PayPal/Venmo across the board.
To give you an idea of how popular and pervasive Zelle is, in Q2 2019, roughly $44 billion in payments were sent across more than 171 million transactions using the platform. And that’s just in the US!
Of course, as impressive as that is, the statistic also hints at a very real Zelle limitation when it comes to online betting: Zelle is a US-only product.
As such, Zelle isn’t actually in a position to be your de facto funding vehicle for offshore gambling sites. But what it can do is help get your account loaded up – and get you betting – faster than ever.
And the key to all this, surprisingly, is Bitcoin.
How gamblers are using Zelle to fund their offshore accounts
Since Zelle can’t be used to directly fund your overseas gaming accounts, its utility for Internet sportsbooks and prepaid online casinos is actually in the way it lets users quickly acquire Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
If you’ve spent any time gambling over the Internet, you’re probably aware that offshore sites tend to take a variety of payment types. However, you’re also probably aware that they universally favor Bitcoin above all others.
There are several reasons for this.
First, Bitcoin deposits allow users to load up their accounts immediately without any risk of having the transfer interrupted or voided by the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA, 2006). The UIGEA is a banking regulation that sometimes makes credit and debit deposits to offshore gambling sites unreliable.
Secondly, Bitcoin is inherently secure, using quantum-hacking-resistant blockchain technology. Though it is possible for Bitcoin exchanges to be hacked or servers to be stolen physically, Bitcoin transfers themselves represent the most secure financial transactions currently known.
Thirdly, the Bitcoin market – and the cryptocurrency market in general – are extremely volatile. However, they’ve demonstrated historical upward mobility, meaning that $10 of Bitcoin today could be worth $20 or $50 or $100 tomorrow. Thus, it is an attractive medium for both gambling sites and gamblers.
The Bitcoin problem that Zelle solves
Though Bitcoin has been around for 10 years now, it’s still struggling with mass adoption in a few segments. And two of those segments have tremendous overlap with online gamblers: the non-tech savvy and the older generations.
For these users, Bitcoin has historically been a bridge too far. It is an eminently technical product, and it simultaneously bucks the entire collective history of financial markets that most folks grew up with. Fiat money, Bitcoin certainly ain’t!
However, even when an online gamer decides to take the crypto plunge, there are caveats and limitations to using Bitcoin that either scare users away or – more often – simply make the proposition a nonstarter.
That’s because, despite any other demographic differences between the millions of Internet gamblers that frequent offshore betting and casino sites, there is a fundamental hurdle with using Bitcoin that is all too often a deal breaker: time.
Typically, once someone decides to get on the Bitcoin bandwagon, they have to purchase Bitcoin at a buy-in gate. Sites like Coinbase offer this service, allowing users to effectively trade USD for Bitcoin (BTC). However, the process can take up to 10 days.
If you want to bet on an NFL game tonight or play in an online poker tournament tomorrow, you simply can’t afford to wait that long.
Luckily, Zelle makes it so you don’t have to.
With Zelle, you can buy Bitcoin quickly, in minutes rather than days.
This is accomplished by using the Zelle platform – which you can access through your online/mobile bank account or via the Zelle app for iPhone and Android – to purchase Bitcoin from private sellers at an exchange called LocalBitcoins.com. Instead of being bank-regulated and FDIC-insured like Coinbase, LocalBitcoins is effectively a Bitcoin classifieds service, bypassing all the lengthy red tape.
However, because the site uses a secure escrow system to ensure that sellers can’t simply abscond with your funds, LocalBitcoins has proven to be a safe and reliable entry point for first-time Bitcoin buyers.
Going forward, there are sure to be other ways to use Zelle to purchase Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, even if you can never use Zelle to directly fund your offshore gambling account.
But for now, if you belong to any prepaid gambling site and have been thinking about joining the Bitcoin revolution, using the Zelle-to-Bitcoin process via LocalBitcoins is a no-brainer.