Is the World Cup helping bitcoin in Brazil?

Thursday 19 June 2014

Brazil, arguably the most successful footballing nation in the world once upon a time is now in the spotlight hosting the most prestigious footballing tournament in the world. Its status as the top team may well have waned but how is it faring in the bitcoin stakes and is this World Cup doing anything to boost bitcoin’s profile in the country?

Brazil bitcoin world cupWhen it comes to places to spend bitcoin in Brazil, it is noticeably lacking against its neighbour, Argentina and indeed, compared to its Northern American counterparts. With the world’s gaze on the country and football fans flooding into its cities, there have been mixed tales of success when it comes to harnessing the attention the World Cup has provided.

Just ahead of the tournament, Bitkup launched to offer a fun platform for people to place bets in bitcoin during the competition. Bitkup’s CTO, Oriol Cortés tells BitScan that already, “a total of 131 bets have been placed.” The current bet amount is 0.05 BTC, with 0.01BTC going to Bitkup to cover expenses, meaning that at current values they have taken over US$3000 in wagers to add to the winnings pot. 

“The two days before starting the World Cup were when the big part of bets were placed. But we also had some bets placed after the World Cup started,” Cortés says and they are still trickling in. At the time of writing, the pot currently stands at 6.82BTC (US$4,129).

Bitcoin betting

On the other hand, Flavio Pripas, CEO of Brazilian trading platform, BitInvest, tells us us that the World Cup has had no positive impact on their business and is not something many bitcoin businesses in Brazil have been benefitting from.

“Trade volumes are in fact lower during the World Cup given that many people are travelling

or getting together with friends to watch the games.” 

Flavio Pripas, BitInvest

“However, Brazil still does not have many places with payment options with bitcoin,” Pripas adds.

Certainly when looking at the lists of places accepting bitcoin, Brazil has not seemingly embraced the digital currency in the same way other developing economies have, even compared with other Newly Industrialised Countries (NICs) such as India.

As a new bitcoin project, Bitkup believe trust has been one of their major obstacles. “We are a small team doing this for first time and it is difficult for the community to trust on a new project,” says Cortés. “Suspicion and disinformation” are, according to him, two of the big barriers.

The World Cup might not be having such a huge impact, despite the numbers of travellers who could benefit from the lack of exchange rates, but in two years, another global event is coming to Brazil's shores and in that time, there is some hope that bitcoin will start to become more popular. “I think that the impact will be bigger during the Olympics given that Brazil is just starting in the bitcoin world,” Pripas says, explaining that currently, “The use of bitcoin is still more to do with speculation and done mostly by enthusiasts of this technology.”

There are positives to take from the long-term trends, however. Pripas confirms that, “Bitcoin trading is increasing fast as well as a growing number of wallets in Brazilian services.”

An OnBitcoin article revealed that Brazilian trading platform, Mercado Bitcoin, could see its trading volume increase to 160million Brazilian Reals (BRL) a month this year. BitInvest say they are seeing strong trading volumes as well. Since its launch three months a go, it is already seeing trades of 1million BRL a month.

Pripas remains positive that bitcoin is only going to continue to grow in popularity. “With the strengthening, enhancement and popularization of bitcoins, I strongly believe we will have a more dynamic and efficient economy, which will further modernize the way we shop and transact in the digital world,” he says.

Bitcoin meetups BrazilBitkup’s Cortés also sees a bright future, which they hope to be a part of. “Interest in bitcoin in Brazil, it is growing every day, but it is still [low] compared to other countries where the currency is popular… We wanted to do this project to help bitcoin get more popular inside Brazil.” He is encouraged by the fact Brazil is home to South America's first two bitcoin ATMs but he sees the challenge now in spreading the word and making people less afraid of cryptocurrency. “We had to explain our project to many people and friends, explaining as well, what is bitcoin... On the other hand, many tourists are coming to [attend] the games and we hope some of them carried their bitcoins to buy Brazilian Reals.”

He hopes the Bitkup project will go someway in helping to promote bitcoin in Brazil, although those involved in the community there acknowledge it will be an uphill struggle. In a country with a population just shy of 200 million, look for a bitcoin meetup and only two appear on the map.

Of course, there is little doubt that if Brazil and the rest of Latin America put the same amount of passion into bitcoin as they do into football, this may well be a different story. According to Cortés, the top three favourites on Bitkup to win the World Cup so far include Argentina and Germany. Number one of course? Well, that would be Brazil. But there's a long way to go if it wants to start topping the crypto game, and not remain a bitcoin backwater.

Louise Goss

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