Pro sports team accepts Bitcoin: A first for the virtual currency

Bitcoin, a form of digital money popular with speculators and tech enthusiasts, continues to spread to more mainstream circles. On Thursday, the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association announced that fans can now use bitcoins to buy tickets online and pay for merchandise in the team’s store.

The announcement comes a week after giant retailer Overstock began accepting bitcoins for online payments and as the world’s first Bitcoin ATM in Vancouver, Canada, continues to do brisk business.

In a news release, Kings’ majority owner Vivek Ranadivé characterized the decision to accept bitcoins as part a “NBA 3.0” business philosophy that seeks to embrace technology.

The actual payment processing for the Kings will be handled by Bitpay, a service that provides merchants with the backend infrastructure to accept the currency in exchange for a 1 percent fee. Bitpay last year reported that it is working with more than 10,000 merchants.

The decision of a team in one of North America’s four major sports leagues to accept bitcoins is another vote of confidence for the currency, but questions still linger about when — if ever — the currency will catch on as a common payment mechanism.

While Bitcoin offers merchants a chance to save on the processing fees they pay to credit card companies, few consumers are actually using it on a day-to-day basis (while many more have not even heard of it). This may start to change, however, as more outlets begin to accept it and companies like Gyft provide a means to use bitcoins to buy a wide variety of gift cards from major retailers.

For now, however, the Sacramento Kings announcement likely represents more of a marketing stunt — similar to that of Virgin Galactic and Tesla which both drummed up Bitcoin-related news — than a milestone for the young currency.