It is 11.15pm on a Friday night and a man in a buttoned white shirt named Joey just ordered me a Fireball shot. It's a bit hard to hear it for the music that explodes on the other side of the velvet strings, but the club's director of services is approaching to make sure I can hear it.
"Excellence and hospitality in the encrypted world", says Joey in response to my request to describe exactly what, exactly, is happening here.
I am sitting on a large sofa in a private club, inside another nightclub, inside a casino, and we are discussing the first Las Vegas cryptocurrency nightclub: MORE Las Vegas. Launched in April by Peter Klamka – a man known for his involvement with the gentleman's club of The Legends Room, which allowed customers to tip performers in bitcoins – the nightclub has all the features of a typical Vegas VIP destination . There are the $ 250,000 champagne bottles, the high-heeled cocktail waitresses and the view of the Bellagio fountains that is to die for.
Unlike all other Las Vegas clubs, however, this has its own cryptocurrency, a currency that you must pass to HODL through the front door as well.
Party through the Crypto Winter
It was not a good year for the price of cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin and ether are far below the highs of 2017 and early 2018, and most of the altcoins have gone much worse. Meanwhile, in the background, ICOs are revealed as scams to an annoyingly normal clip, and the SEC continues to drag on a proposed bitcoin ETF.
Lambos' much-defamed speech has shifted to progressively less convincing explanations as to why all this is indeed good for bitcoins.
However, some people are getting – or, if sold at the right time, they remain – undeniably rich. It is often that crew, the group that either for stupid luck or skill has managed to retain its new wealth while the market is bleeding, which feels more engaged in its vision of the bitcoin maximalist or Ethereum.
Their livelihood depends on this, after all. And they like to party each other.
And it was with all this in mind that I accepted an invitation to check MORE Las Vegas. I would still be in Las Vegas for DEF CON, and this seemed like a great opportunity to see what a city does that practically defines opulence when it sticks to the world of cryptocurrency.
Well, what it does is MORE Las Vegas, a club with its own token that doubles as a de facto entry fee. Owning 5,000 MORE coins or more makes you a MORE member of Las Vegas.
"[MORE Coin is] the intersection of nightlife and crypts that demonstrate an application of the real world of blockchain technology," Klamka told me that evening.
The coin is traded on, and was created at the behest of Klamka. At the time of writing this article, the ERC-20 token built on the Ethereum blockchain is quoted at just over 15 cents with a 24 hour trading volume of $ 201.
MORE Las Vegas is essentially a special VIP area inside the Hyde nightclub, which is located inside the Bellagio hotel and casino. To enter you must first reach Joey. This gives you the opportunity to let the club know you are coming and to show your participation in the currency.
Plan staff are trained to accept cryptocurrency as payment, although interesting all prices on the bottle service menu are listed in USD. And the staff is not fussy about how you pay. Do you want to send them $ 100,000 bitcoins for that 15-liter bottle of Ace of Spades? They are happy to take it.
Do you want to pay in MORE Coin? Well, this is fine too.
According to a spokesperson for MORE Las Vegas, the club has about 1,500 members, although, he pointed out, the only thing that makes you a member is the ownership of coins, the number changes all the time.
The place was about a third full when I arrived at 11 pm on Friday, which, in all honesty, is long before a Las Vegas club starts. A look around the customers revealed what looked like the typical Las Vegas nightclubs: they were well dressed and young with money to spend.
Essentially, just like any other place on the Strip. Has the crypt finally achieved traditional adoption?
But this changed soon after we went out into the wonderful private patio of the club. Directly at ground level, it overlooked the Bellagio fountains and was clearly a large selling point for Klamka. Shortly after the conclusion of our interview, Klamka left the patio to return soon with a group of young men much more closely aligned with the stereotype of someone in cryptic.
One of the group members, covered in various cryptographic tattoos, had a sliding LED hat that read brilliantly "BITCOIN". Under his shorts, bitcoin-themed socks enriched with some form of fuzzy slipper.
The club had a strict dress code, and although it was not clear whether this newcomer's clothing fell into the interior, it clearly had not prevented him from entering.
We had a conversation and soon we realized we were both in town for the DEF CON hacking convention. When I asked him if he was worried that his tattoos could make him a target for hackers, he shook off the possibility.
He kept most of his crypts in cold storage, he assured me. His blinding hat made conversation difficult.
When his friends settled the bill later in the night, they seemed to pay with a credit card.
In many ways, MORE Las Vegas is just another luxury nightclub in a city full of them. But, in the world of cryptocurrency, maybe it's something more. After all, it is a real commercial activity, in a sector that is full of great ideas but without execution.
Klamka talked about plans to open other locations in Miami and elsewhere, and described a business model in which people buy and sell club memberships on the blockchain. It was a real, though extremely smoky, application of an ERC-20 token.
It may not have been what Vitalik Buterin had in mind, but I can not imagine it could annoy Klamka too much.
After all, it has a business to manage and a currency to promote – and you'd better believe it's HODLing.