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The Future of Web Currency for Online Bingo

Who would have thought online bingo, a form of light gambling, might be well positioned within the vanguard of our next progressive socio-economic movement? The pioneers of open-source Web-based currencies, and Web-friendly services like PayPal that act as ‘an intermediary to keep the ledger’ [1], may find the most receptivity from technology firms, businesses that wish to offer progressive payment methods and enterprises that are somewhat marginal, like online gambling.

There are various reasons to embrace open-source and truly public forms of capital, but the recent calamities in the world-wide financial markets from gross mis-management and unmitigated greed surely provide a compelling doubt that private banks can offer the fairest monetary policies and services.

Marginal or ‘long tail’ entertainment and commerce may get a bad name from kitsch peddlers, pornography, online casinos, organized drug dealers or other unsavoury purveyors ¾ on the other hand, most things can be marginal and yet wholesome, like folklore crafts or self-published authors. So-called long tail [2] commercial streams have been the bread and butter of Amazon.com, which sells many more marginal wares (such as obscure music albums or cult films) than it sells nationally-advertised widgets or blockbusters.

There are real people, let’s not forget, navigating and shopping at niche marketplaces. Online bingo is certainly not to be confused with online poker, slots and the whole casino firmament, mainly because of the very different demographics of these games. The growth of Web-based bingo in the United Kingdom, where it is most popular, is primarily amongst women and the elderly (but there are plenty of young women and men of all ages playing also). This demographic is expanding and exploding, which means that bingo has what it takes to become a retro hobby with viral appeal ¾ something with campy, parodic fun built in. Online bingo is a great example of something marginal and yet has popularity popping at the seams, readily qualifying it as an emerging mainstream entertainment (despite the association with gambling).

What would be the mandate amongst online bingo players for an alternative currency that is not managed from on high like US Dollars, which are controlled by the US Federal Reserve under a ‘fiat’ of their worth? (This fiat is an official claim that each Dollar has value, because the Fed establishment ¾ actually a private organization ¾ vouchsafes that it does.) Perhaps the most important advantage of an alternative money is its privacy. Also, there is the possibility of added security (if only because a user of this e-currency most likely does not keep all of one’s capital in it, so that when using the e-cash their principle wealth is not endangered). But the bottom line for consumers including bingo players may end up being the increase of personal funds or quality of services available by cutting out the financial intermediaries (creditors) who generally skim 2-4%. Those credit card companies operate with their own fiat concerning the legitimacy of their monetary function (bolstered by one of the most powerful lobbying fronts in the United States); but the success of Bingo PayPal and other anonymous payment methods has already cast doubt upon the supposed centrality, usefulness and safety of conventional banking products.

The most fundamental benefit, however, that online bingo players might appreciate about an e-currency is based upon a certain affinity between the experience of playing bingo (with other players) and the ‘peer-to-peer’ quality of a virtual form of money that does not need to rely upon a virtual bank. [3] Bingo is a sociable game; even its online incarnations employ chat panels alongside the virtual bingo cards so that players can share giddy shenanigans. Some bingo websites go all the way to offer live video feeds by players. The online version of live in-person bingo halls indeed keeps important ties to its ‘real world’ parent; there is also a borrowing of technology by brick-and-mortar bingo halls from online bingo applications, as one of the UK’s largest operators develops hand-held tablet computers to replace paper score cards. For these reasons, bingo’s sociability and its direct ties between individual people (in contrast to the purchaser of arcade games in relationship with Sony) turns out to be a natural fit with an electronic currency that is managed collectively and transparently by its own users, making full use of the Web’s crowd-sourcing powers.

And, lest we obfuscate the fact that a fraction of bingo players can form an addiction to it insofar as it is a form of gambling, and, that the newest mobile bingo apps for smart phones may exacerbate such an addiction (since they are so very convenient to use), it may be worth conjecturing that an alternative form of ‘bingo bucks’ could be deployed in such a way as to treat addictive patterns. The reason this is generally feasible owes to the fact of there being a conceptual buffer between the play cash and one’s non-gambling finances.

On the other hand, e-currencies can present their own kind of game of chance. Speculators saw the value of a leading example of e-cash, Bitcoin, which can be converted into US Dollars, went up and down before levelling off in the middle ¾ its overall worth is about $100 million dollars. The owner of a small retailer that chose to accept Bitcoins for payment observed, ‘The first order I had was for 42 BTC [Bitcoins], which was worth about $40 at the time, but now those coins would be worth around $680!’ [4] This itself could appeal to bingo players who might become would-be investors in electronic forms of capital. Publicly-managed currency alternatives will undoubtedly include more folks in financial trading, which has so long been the guarded province of cliques of investment insiders ¾ conceivably leading, in time, to a renaissance of fiscal awareness amongst the general public and quite possibly a much more stable money and credit supply.

It is amusing and charming how bingo players might find themselves the unlikely poster children for one of the most exciting cultural frontiers in Western history: the reformation of money. In this, we find that two of the oldest concerns known by humanity ¾ survival and entertainment ¾ may become explicitly intertwined in such a way that the social imperative of a democratically-functioning money supply is laid plain to any bingo player or other user of an e-cash. Philosophically pure money, some believe, should be based upon the human-scale of experience and have a value comprised of concrete resources. Many e-currencies like Bitcoin meet those two criteria. That legitimacy can only lend more potency to the thrill of winning a bingo game.



[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/04/business/media/04link.html

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_Tail

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/04/business/media/04link.html

[4] Ibid