Bitcoin is giving Italian mobsters a legal way to enter the gambling industry.
That was the bold claim made by Lucrezia Ricchiuti, who is convinced that the popular digital currency can be linked to casino operations runs by the Italian mafia. Ricchiuti, member of the Democratic Party, believes that the rise of new payment methods like cryptocurrency will pave the way for Italy’s gambling industry to be used for tax evasion.
Italy’s current laws allow operators to open a gaming site that accepts bitcoin payments, but the policymaker said it’s a situation that needs to be addressed moving forward as it poses a “systemic risk.”
“First we must strengthen the barriers to entry in the public system of the games,” Ricchiuti said. “To do this it is necessary to broaden the scope of impediments both crimes against the requirements for participation in tenders or public procedures and with respect to the issue, renewal and maintenance of concessions on public games.”
Bitcoin, which accounts for about 90 percent of the $7-billion global digital currency sector, has gotten a bad rap several years ago after authorities in the United States uncovered the notorious “deep web” Silk Road, which is known for allowing its users to transact a wide range of illegal practices, including hiring hitmen and buying and selling drugs, using virtual currency.
It remains unclear what Ricchiuti plans to do about bitcoin. Linking bitcoin to mafia-led casino operations may be a stretch for the Italian policymaker, given that bitcoin’s daily transaction volume is far too low to make it appealing to the mafia—not to mention the fact that bitcoin’s underlying technology, the blockchain, will allow anyone to access and trace any transactions made.
In addition, European Union law doesn’t prevent people from using bitcoin and other cryptoccurencies, although EU officials are considering bringing bitcoin exchanges’ anonymous trading practices to public to help strengthen the government’s fight against terrorism financing.