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Iceni Magazine | January 19, 2020

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Does Bitcoin have any Relevance in Norfolk?

Best money closer to the top.” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by zcopley

It’s hard to avoid talk of Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency (a type of money that involves the trading of encrypted data rather than notes and coins) has only been in the mainstream public’s consciousness for the past few months, following a surge in value after the US Election and then again at the beginning of 2017 to replace gold as the most valuable currency in human history.

The enigmatic token has been around for almost a decade now though, blossoming from an essay posted on a niche mailing list back in 2008 into a currency that its adopters can spend at eBay, Tesla Motors (the brand recently accepted around 1,000 Bitcoins for a $110,000 Tesla Model S), Steam, and Expedia.

Somewhat oddly, Bitcoin’s incredible popularity has come in spite of the fact that it is sometimes considered a little obtuse in terms of the jargon involved and the necessity of things like digital wallets and currency exchanges to get started. However, Bitcoin does offer several advantages over fiat currencies for both consumers and businesses – it’s not just the hipsters’ newest beau.

Financiers

Bitcoin is built on a landmark piece of technology called blockchain, a type of database created alongside the cryptocurrency by mysterious inventor Satoshi Nakamoto. Blockchain allows people to make transactions that are virtually immune to fraud, theft, and counterfeiting while conferring traders anonymity when buying or selling in the currency.

It’s perhaps no surprise that Bitcoin has found fans in the online casino community, a sector where security is of particular importance. BitCasino.io, for example, the first licensed Bitcoin casino in the world, boasts twenty different bitcoin black jack games despite abandoning other currencies altogether. BitCasino.io lets players game for free or with real money, with blackjack hands beginning at 1mBTC (millibitcoin).

Given its frequent highs (a single coin was worth $1,197 or £964 on January 4th), Bitcoin has also become a popular vehicle for investment, representing something of a safe haven for financiers and earning praise from prominent capitalists like the Winklevoss Twins, who both bought tickets for Richard Branson’s outer space venture, Virgin Galactic, with Bitcoin.

But what does all that mean for Norfolk?

Beer” (CC BY 2.0) by martingarri

The White Lion

Support for Bitcoin in Norwich and Norfolk is almost entirely related to the presence of second-hand electronics retailer, CeX, which became the first UK store to accept the currency back in May 2014. As a publicity stunt, a CeX franchise in Glasgow effectively banned the pound for three days after Bitcoin was introduced.

Sadly, there are only two other non-CeX places that accept Bitcoin in the Norfolk area – Sash Window Preservation near the Norwich airport and The White Lion pub on Oak Street. The latter, which installed a Bitcoin-friendly till back in 2013, was featured in the local news following its implementation.

The White Lion’s owner, Ben Akers, pointed to the currency’s ease of use and lower potential for human error than conventional money as the impetus for Bitcoin’s adoption. It’s more than a little ironic that a highly traditional industry like pubs is helping the cryptocurrency make its first steps in the real world (the first Bitcoin ATM was installed in a pub too).

Finally, while Norfolk can’t really compare to a Bitcoin paradise like London or Birmingham, it’s worth noting that the cryptocurrency is associated with internet commerce rather than physical stores, and is still in its infancy as far as mainstream acceptance is concerned. In other words, there’s still plenty of time left for Nakamoto’s currency to make its mark in East Anglia.

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