Madeira Beach becomes “Bitcoin Beach” ahead of Bitcoin Bowl

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Madeira Beach is embracing a new way to pay by becoming the world’s first municipality to officially embrace the tech money, Bitcoin. Last week the city passed a resolution making it a “Bitcoin Beach.”

The move comes as St. Pete and surrounding areas prepare for the December 26 Bitcoin Bowl at Tropicana Field. The college football bowl game is sponsored by BitPay. The company hopes that by placing its name on a popular college football sporting event thousands of Bitcoin users will flock to the city and others will take note of what Bitcoin and BitPay are all about.

Basically, BitPay is a way to use online money called Bitcoin. After purchasing Bitcoin, it’s available to make purchases in much the same way a consumer would buy something online with a credit card.

The difference: There’s no identifying information for bad guys to use to steal identities and rack up fraudulent charges.

The catch is, it takes time to become accepted, much like it took time for merchants to begin accepting credit cards and not just cash.

Bitcoin is still relatively unheard of and not a lot of businesses accept it as currency. But, as evidenced in Madeira Beach, that is changing.

“For cities that attract international visitors, accepting Bitcoin is a great way to boost sales,” a press release from BitPay read.

Benefits of using Bitcoin include the elimination of processing fees, security against fraud and chargebacks, and appeal to global and mobile-oriented customers. So far, more than 100 businesses in Madeira Beach and the greater Tampa Bay area have expressed interest in accepting Bitcoin.

BitPay is a company formed to process Bitcoin payments. The company provides merchants with devices and software necessary to process the online currency. Small businesses can get set up for free with BitPay. That service offers little service to users, though. The company makes its money by setting up processing at larger companies who pay monthly fees. Some St. Pete businesses have already jumped on board, including Ferg’s, Green Bench Brewery and Hotel Zamora.

Madeira Beach is aiming to use the momentum from the Bitcoin Bowl to put the city on the map for Bitcoin users. In addition to fostering one of the densest Bitcoin economies in the world, the city will host the pre-Bitcoin Bowl Beach Bash featuring activities for visiting fans and teams.

“We hope that other cities follow Madeira Beach’s example in supporting the growth of Bitcoin,” said BitPay Executive Chairman Tony Gallippi. “For cities that attract international visitors, accepting Bitcoin is a great way to boost sales.”

Gallippi and his partner, Stephen Pair, will be handed a key to the city of Madeira Beach prior to the Bitcoin Bow.

“The city of Madeira Beach is opening its arms to the global Bitcoin community,” City Manager Shane Crawford said. “We want bitcoin users to know that they can pay for their entire vacation with Bitcoin here.”

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.