A Miami judge recently ruled that Bitcoin currency is play money or in her words, “not real money.” Judge Teresa Mary Pooler agreed with the defense and dismissed the case against Michael Espinoza, for laundering $1,500 worth of Bitcoins to be allegedly used for criminal activity. Espinoza supposedly sold the Bitcoins to undercover agents who were undercover as criminals and claiming they intended to use the funds to purchase some stolen credit cards.
The judge’s ruling came swiftly as Judge Pooler agreed with the concept that Espinoza was not guilty of money laundering because according to Florida Law digital currencies are not legally considered money.
Outside of the Box
Upon ruling, Judge Pooler made note that, “this court is not an expert in economics,” and “however, it is very clear, even to someone with limited knowledge in the area, that Bitcoin has a long way to go before it is equivalent to money. She continued, “The Florida legislature may choose to adopt statutes regulating virtual currency in the future,” and also added, “At this time, however, attempting to fit the sale of Bitcoin into a statutory scheme regulating money services business is like fitting a square peg in a round hole.”
She also pointed out that, “There is unquestionably no evidence that the defendant did anything wrong, other than sell his Bitcoin to an investigator who wanted to make a case.”
Is Bitcoin Gambling Legal Florida?
This raises a crucial question in the gaming world, “Can Bitcoin casinos operate in Florida with immunity?” The answer is complicated, and one would want to go about opening a Florida-based Bitcoin casino with caution. This is because this recent ruling is opposite of the Federal stance on the usage of digital currency and could cause trouble for non-licensed casinos to operate based out of Florida.
FinCEN or The US Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has been active in cracking in cracking down on those who use Bitcoin for illegal activity. Not to mention, the IRS taxes Bitcoin as an intangible personal property and when it comes to the law most gaming laws will consider putting anything of value at stake to be gambling. It doesn’t matter if Bitcoin is defined as property or money, it is still not legal to gamble with it in the United States where online gaming is illegal.