Union Workers Picket in Las Vegas over New Concerns

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It has been a month since the contracts of Las Vegas union employees expired and they have decided the best way to go about the issue is to apply new pressure to casino properties. This begun last Friday when the workers ran picket lines of hundreds of workers on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas.

Apart from the issue of better wages, the union workers also wanted the new contracts to address the increased use of robots in gambling establishments as well as the issue of security which has been amplified in the past few months following last year mass shooting at a casino complex.

“We want to make sure we’re not lost to the robots,” Linda Hunt, a food server at the El Cortez Hotel & Casino said. “We want to make sure that they don’t just show up next week — that we have some time to adjust and train for new jobs over the next five years.”

Panic Buttons Coming to Two Las Vegas Casinos

MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment will be joining the increasing number of companies that have begun to provide their employees with panic buttons for use in case of emergency with more emphasis on sexual harassments or abuse. The rollout of the car-remote-sized panic buttons comes amid contract negotiations with the Culinary Union whose members have been vocal about worker protections.

“We are here to do our jobs and provide incredible, world-class customer service for our guests,” Maria Landeros, an MGM Grand housekeeper said in a press release issued by the Culinary Union. “We are not here to be abused or have people think that just because it’s Las Vegas, anything goes.”

“I was carrying a heavy tray full of drinks on the casino floor, and a high roller at the dice game grabbed me by the neck with both of his hands and forced me to kiss him for good luck,” she recounted during the release. “I have permanent nerve damage from that incident and I live in pain every day.”

The use of panic buttons is becoming increasingly common in hotels as a way of giving their employees more assurance of protection. In fact, a number of cities including New York, Washington D.C., Chicago and Seattle have made it mandatory for hotels to provide housekeepers and all other employees who are at a risk of harassment with panic buttons.

The new contract that has been negotiated by the Culinary Union and the Bartender unions includes language that calls for greater security measures for the employees. This includes safety, protection from sexual harassment as well as issues to do with immigration, the use of technology at their workplaces and subcontracting. In addition to all these, the unions also hope to get a share of the anticipated cash flows that the hotels and casinos expect to receive in response to changes made to federal government taxes.

South Korea Advances Its Cryptocurrency Regulations Further

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South Korea has been at the forefront of the crypto industry since the investor boom and cryptocurrency frenzy of 2017 and since then, the country has seen a number of gradual and significant changes in the way cryptocurrencies are perceived within its borders. Just recently, the country’s authorities announced that it was lifting the blanket ban on initial coin offerings (ICOs). Next on South Korea’s agenda are plans to lead what could be the fourth industrial revolution that they will be backed by blockchain initiatives.

Even as the country surges on towards delivering a blockchain-powered future, the authorities still understand the importance of regulation. According to the announcement which was made by the country’s Financial Services Commission (FSC), a set of new anti-money-laundering and know-your-customer rules for cryptocurrency exchanges will take effect on July 10, 2018, and will remain in effect for a year.

A Tougher Stand

The country’s new guidelines will make the current regulations on user and transaction monitoring even stricter than they were before. These stricter regulations are being put into place so as to prevent money laundering, fraud as well as money transfers between local and foreign exchanges.  The FSC also requested the Korea Financial Intelligence Unit (KFIU), the country’s financial supervisory organization to strengthen their control over digital currency transactions and user activity so as to provide cryptocurrency exchange investors with even greater security.

The advancement of the crypto regulations in South Korea was primarily based on the FSC’s recent inspection of Nonghyup Bank, KB Kookmin Bank, and KEB Hana Bank – the inspection revealed that some of the crypto exchanges had moved assets from their investors’ depositing accounts into their own operating accounts. This is a violation of the promise that cryptocurrency exchanges make to keep investors’ assets separate from their own.

“We plan to closely keep tabs on bank accounts used by cryptocurrency exchanges for parking their expenses,” the FSC noted after the findings.

The new regulations also require the crypto exchanges to conduct Customer Due Diligence (CDD) and Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD). These are meant to ensure that foreigners are not trading digital assets through the South Korean crypto exchanges and, as mentioned earlier, to reduce the possibility of fraud, prevent money laundering and prevent personal data breaches.

While these regulations mostly seem to be restrictive in nature, the South Korean government’s initiative to control the crypto space is also a step forward towards the legitimization of the sector. In the next few months, the local authorities will be teaming up with local exchanges and banks in an effort to better structure the cryptocurrency market.

Facebook Reverses Ban on Crypto Ads for Approved Vendors

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Barely six months after a somewhat successful attempt at banning the proliferation of deceptive cryptocurrency advertising on the popular social media platform, Facebook has decided to lift some of these restrictions. The ban on cryptocurrency adverts by Facebook come officially on January 30 as part of a customer protection initiative that was meant specifically to keep naïve users of the platform from falling victim to crypto-related scams that have been rife in the online space.

 “We’ve created a new policy that prohibits ads that promote financial products and services that are frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices, such as binary options, initial coin offerings, and cryptocurrency,” Facebook’s Product Management Director, Rob Leathern said at the time.

In the wake of Facebook’s crypto ad ban, other leading tech companies and advertisers such as Twitter, Google and Snapchat also joined in and implemented their own bans on cryptocurrency ads while citing the same reasons that Facebook did.

Did It Work?

Unfortunately, the ban did not turn out to be as effective as Facebook had hoped – crafty cryptocurrency advertisers were still able to sneak their promotions onto the social media platform by modifying or changing the spellings of common crypto-related keywords. However, it is worth mentioning that the ban did indeed see to a significant reduction in the number of crypto ads.

Unfortunately, again, while the ban helped in barring con artists from advertising, it also barred legitimate cryptocurrency business like Gemini and Coinbase from advertising their products. This is perhaps the main reason why Facebook has moved to loosen their restriction on cryptocurrency adverts albeit with a few conditions.

The Terms

In an official blog post on Tuesday, June 19, Facebook’s Rob Leather once again made the announcement that the social media platform has loosened the restriction they laid out earlier this year in January but they have also included measures to ensure the allowed ads are from legitimate crypto businesses.

“In the last few months, we’ve looked at the best way to refine this policy — to allow some ads while also working to ensure that they’re safe. So starting June 26, we’ll be updating our policy to allow ads that promote cryptocurrency and related content from pre-approved advertisers. But we’ll continue to prohibit ads that promote binary options and initial coin offerings,” the blog post reads.

Even though Facebook argues that it has loosened the ban to allow legitimate cryptocurrency business to keep advertising their services, there has been speculation stemming from rumors that the social media behemoth has been developing its own blockchain and could eventually launch its own digital currency.

In a way, this was confirmed by an announcement from Mark Zuckerberg which followed shortly after and stated that the company was looking into digital assets and the decentralized technologies behind them as a potential fix for some of Facebook’s problems.

Akon Launches Cryptocurrency to Power Youth Entrepreneurship

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Senegal-born platinum-selling singer and philanthropist Akon has recently announced plans to build his own city in Senegal with his recently launched digital currency, Akoin, being the main form of exchange. Cryptocurrencies have had their fair share of celebrity backers but most of the support has been at face value, that is, most of them are just ambassadors for digital currency outfits. As such, the move by Akon to venture into the crypto space is not only bold but also game-changing.

Speaking at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on June 18 on a panel titled “Branding Africa: Blockchain, Entrepreneurship and Empowering the Future,” the Grammy-nominated performer said blockchain technology and cryptocurrency could be “the savior for Africa in many ways” especially because of its high-security factor.

“I think that blockchain and crypto could be the savior for Africa in many ways because it brings the power back to the people and brings the security back into the currency system and also allows the people to utilize it in ways where they can advance themselves and not allow government to do those things that are keeping them down,” Akon said during the panel event, according to Page Six.

A Crypto City?

According to an initial blurb posted by ICO Impact Group, Akon and his team have a more ambitious plan in the works and it involves a 100 percent crypto-based city. As mentioned earlier at the beginning of this post, Akoin will be the center of the transactional life of the city that has been dubbed “Akon Crypto City.”

As it turns out, the development of the Akon Crypto City is already underway and it began with the 2,000 acres of land that the singer was gifted by the President of Senegal. The city is located within 5 minutes on Senegal’s new international airport, and a short drive from Dakar, Senegal’s capital city. It is also close to the coast, which in addition to all the factors make it a strategic location for such a venture.

At the moment, there are so many reasons to be skeptical about the plan especially because of the blithe overuse of “blockchain” as a buzzword and panacea to existing financial problems. To make it worse, Akon’s responses to the technical questions during the panel were not exactly heartening either – PageSix reports him saying, “I come with the concepts and let the geeks figure it out.” This is not exactly reassuring especially considering how shaky the crypto space is.

However, if we consider Akon’s Akon Lighting Africa charity project and how it effectively helped 17 countries in Africa to arrange for financing for solar panels and small-scale lighting projects, then this ambitious endeavor might just pay off, eventually.

IMF Official Urges Central Banks to Compete With Crypto

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International Monetary Fund (IMF) deputy director, Dong He, on Thursday published an article that is meant to nudge the central banks to work on measures geared towards making fiat currencies “more attractive in the digital age.” Dong He believes that crypto may someday reduce the demand for central bank money and, therefore, these banks should consider adopting concepts to obstruct the competitive pressure that cryptocurrencies are already exerting on fiat currencies.

IMF’s stance when it comes to cryptocurrencies has not been particularly reassuring especially when it comes to the future of these digital assets. In an event in March, IMF Chief Christine Lagarde advised supervisors to prepare technical elements that would assist them in “fighting fire with fire.”

The deputy director reiterated this thought and outline his view that, at the moment, cryptocurrencies and other crypto assets have more adoption. Consequentially, the central banks are bound to eventually lose their command and influence on the economy, which is usually through strategies like interest rate charges.

“Second, government authorities should regulate the use of crypto assets to prevent regulatory arbitrage and any unfair competitive advantage crypto assets may derive from tighter regulation,” he pointed out. “That means rigorously applying measures to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism, strengthening consumer protection, and effectively taxing crypto transactions.”

Dong He further pointed out some of the viable alternatives that the banks could adopt. These include the idea of the central banks moving to create their own digitized assets or digital currencies that could be exchanged in a peer-to-peer fashion, just like it is done for other cryptocurrencies.

“For example, they could make central bank money user-friendly in the digital world by issuing digital tokens of their own to supplement physical cash and bank reserves. Such central bank digital currency could be exchanged, peer to peer in a decentralized manner, much as crypto assets are,” a related excerpt from the article reads.

Already, a number of banks have been researching ways to implement such a move but there have been a number of setbacks, one of the most prominent being divergent opinions on whether such a move would pay off or not.

According to the deputy director, the central banks can actually profit from the underlying technology of cryptocurrencies – monetary policymaking will, without a doubt, benefit from such kind of technology by improving the banks’ forecasts using big data, machine learning, and, of course, artificial intelligence.

“Central banks should continue to strive to make fiat currencies better and more stable units of account. The best response by central banks to crypto is to continue running effective monetary policy while being open to fresh ideas and new demands, as economies evolve,” he noted.  “That means rigorously applying measures to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism, strengthening consumer protection, and effectively taxing crypto transactions.”

Coinbase to Rebrand Its Cryptocurrency Exchange Service

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Renowned United States-based cryptocurrency exchange, Coinbase, has purchased a platform known as Paredex that deals with cryptocurrency trading. The move comes with the launch of a new version of Coinbase’s GDAX platform that has now been rebranded to Coinbase Pro and it will expand the company’s operations to non-U.S. customers by allowing them to trade hundreds of Ethereum-based coins directly with each other.

In a Wednesday blog post, Coinbase explained that Coinbase Pro will add on to what GDAX was as a platform that was specifically designed to tend to the needs of individual cryptocurrency traders. Coinbase Pro will also feature some major improvements that are meant to make using the platform easier and more intuitive. This will include such neat features as simplified deposit and withdrawal services as well as a decent number of extra services such as staking and protocol voting. Also, customers who were on the GDAX platform will be happy to know that all of their GDAX activity will be ported over to the new Coinbase Pro platform and therefore they will not need to worry about starting from scratch.

Paradex will play a critical role in this expansion simply because it will significantly increase the types of digital currencies that the Coinbase Pro customers will have access to. However, even though Coinbase in a United States-based company, the Coinbase Pro services will in the initial stages be available to only non-U.S. customers before being eventually brought back home one the company obtains a regulatory clearance.

In addition to the revamped exchanged platform, Coinbase also revealed that it would be launching its own self-titled cryptocurrency wallet in the near future to compete with similar offerings. The Coinbase Wallet is going to combine a neat set of features from the Toshi toolkit that powers the existing version of Coinbase’s cryptocurrency wallet, and others from the newly acquired Paradex.

“Our vision is to give customers the ability to participate in services like staking and protocol voting that are distinct to crypto. As the decentralized ecosystem advances, we expect there will be many more opportunities for customers to interact with digital assets in new and unique ways,” reads the Coinbase release.

A Little More About Paradex

Paradex is a cryptocurrency relay platform that allows its users or investors to trade ERC-20 tokens directly from their digital wallets – no third party is needed to take custody of the token during trading. This is accomplished through the use of a blockchain protocol that was developed by Ox which also happens to be advised by Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam and two other former Coinbase employees.

“Our team couldn’t be more proud of the work we’ve accomplished over the past year,” said Paradex CEO, Ron Bernstein. “And we couldn’t be more excited about this new chapter under the Coinbase umbrella.”

Paradex’s technology will be directly integrated with the newly rebranded Coinbase Pro over the next few weeks.

CoinPoker to Launch First-Ever Crypto Series of Poker

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CoinPoker, a unique online poker room built on blockchain technology, is about to revolutionize the concept of online poker with the launch of the world’s first Crypto Series of Poker (CSOP). The poker room that has always reiterated that it is built on trust and transparency announced that the daily tournaments of CSOP will take place as from May 27 to June 3 and will feature a total prize pool of ten million CHP (the operator’s in-house cryptocurrency).

“Join in on a week of daily tournaments taking place between May 27 and June 3. The series kicks off with a quarter and half a million CHP prize pools, and ends with an epic final event where 2,500,000 CHP is yours for the taking,” said CoinPoker spokesperson from.

The company through its spokesperson also added that the unique poker series is being launched to give back to the poker room’s early adopters who have, without a doubt, contributed immensely to the growth of CoinPoker. However, every other player will also get to enjoy the best of what the platform has to offer.

Online poker has certainly grown in popularity over the past few years, players still have to put up with a variety of complex problems that include the lack of control over the funds, problematic withdrawal services, and lack of transparency as well as high burn rates for recreational players. CoinPoker found a way of going around all these problems by utilizing a fully decentralized set of contracts – the platform operates on the Ethereum smart contract based cryptocurrency protocols.

CoinPoker’s ambitious new venture is however not the first time that the platform is commanding a lot of attention from poker enthusiasts. The company has previously been part of partnerships with some of the largest poker tournaments such as the Japanese Poker Association (JPA) for 2018’s Japan Poker Cup that begun in April and is set to continue till later in August.

 “On top of the benefits for online poker players, our collaboration with multiple poker leagues in the form of online satellites make live poker events accessible to players in different corners of the world,” says Paulius Mikaliunas, CoinPoker’s Head of Poker Operations. “The release of our upcoming mobile app will help boost these efforts, alongside ambitious plans for diversifying the games on our platform to ultimately give CHP investors and CoinPoker players more value.”

ZeroEdge.Bet to Launch Its Second Pre-ICO Offering on June 1

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Renowned blockchain based online casino platform ZeroEdge.bet will be launching the second part of its Initial Coin Offering (ICO) on June 1 with a whopping 58 percent discount bonus. Even though there is still some doubt pertaining to the true nature of the platform, it has always been set to revolutionize the online gaming industry with its unique approach.

The platform made its mark by offering its games at zero percent house edge (hence its name) at a time when all other online casino sites were offering casino games that came with house edges ranging between 1 percent and 10 percent. Therefore, unlike its online game provider counterparts, ZeroEdge.Bet’s games give players fair chances of winning, for free!

“We can see why other blockchain-based gambling projects haven’t penetrated the market, so we want to come in well-prepared to be among the first to do this. We believe the experienced team and accomplished advisors are the keys here,” said Adrian Casey, the ZeroEdge.Bet CEO. “Zero Edge offers a unique gambling model which potentially could revolutionize the $70 Billion gambling industry. Players won’t be losing money but instead earning from the increasing Zerocoin value. Our ultimate goal is to become a leading gambling platform in the online gambling industry where thousands of different games are played each day using Zerocoin and where players have the best chance of winning.”

The platform operates on a closed loop economy that is driven by the high demand for zero percent games which in turn results in the increase in demand for Zerocoin, the company’s in-house digital currency. With this revolutionary gambling model in place, gamblers who choose the platform will not lose money but instead gain the value of Zerocoin increases.

The Zerocoin Token will be availed to interested investors during the planned Initial Coin offering (ICO) at the beginning of next month if everything goes as planned.

France Lowers Crypto Taxes, Labels Them ‘Moveable Property’

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According to April 26 report from Le Monde, a local news outlet in France, the Conseil d’Etat (Council of State) of the country has lowered the tax rate on cryptocurrencies from the initial 45 percent to a flat rate of 19 percent. In addition to this, all the profit that will arise from cryptocurrency sales will be considered as capital gains of ‘moveable property’ as stipulated by the new regulations. This move follows the reclassification of bitcoin that is separate from commercial and non-commercial activity.

According to the Council, “The sale of ‘bitcoins’ [fell under] the principle from the category of capital gains of movable property.”

The news report also mentioned that the Council of State’s decision was partly motivated by an appeal that was filed earlier this year to the country’s highest regulatory body. The appeal sort to have the harsh regulations reviewed and changed so as to ensure the survival and growth of the French crypto industry.

Profits amassed from cryptocurrency mining will, however, be exempted from this and they will, therefore, incur higher tax rates as they are still considered to be industrial and commercial profits. These harsh cryptocurrency-focused tax rules that initially encompassed all transactions came to be in mid-2014. Four years down the line, Bruno Le Maire, France’s economy minister, assembled a task force for the sole purpose of scrutinizing the state of cryptocurrency regulations in France.

“Our goal is to provide legal certainty for those who seek it, without hindering those who want to follow their own path. We have a rather liberal approach. We work for a flexible, non-dissuasive framework. At the same time, we are not naive either, we know that these products can be risky” noted the finance ministry.

Other than the finance ministry’s efforts in putting together a task force to review the country’s cryptocurrency regulations, it has also been reported that it the financial market regulator has been considering legislation that would foster the development of Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) in France.

Crypto Trading Has Not Been Banned In India, Govt. Confirms

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As mentioned in the Friday news post, the cryptocurrency situation in India is quite unstable at the moment. Still, it is worth noting that there have been a lot of misconceptions regarding the recent decision by the Indian government with a number of media outlets claiming that India has banned trading in bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies for that matter. This is certainly not the case. Just to be clear, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) only cut ties between its own banks and any entity that deals with cryptocurrencies.

No Cause for Alarm?

It goes without saying that the RBI press release indeed caused quite a stir especially because it somehow translates to a total ban on bitcoin trading, depending on how one interprets it. While this is not the case, it cannot be said that there is nothing worry about since the RBI’s ultimatum is still rather significant for cryptocurrency users.

All banks that are currently servicing any entities that deal in cryptocurrencies have a three-month deadline looming over their operations. Any bank that fails to sever its ties with the crypto users the will no longer be considered as a partner of the Reserve Bank of India.

What It Implies

According to Unocoin, there is not much cause for alarm since the RBI has not deemed bitcoin as an illegal currency and there is no ban on cryptocurrencies. For now, Unocoin will continue operating as usual until the banks it is affiliated with state otherwise. The three-month ultimatum creates room for a lot of changes and adjustments but everything will become crystal clear after that. So far, the damage is going to be minimal even though this is subject to abrupt change, but such kind of change is something you get used to when you stay in the crypto-world for long.

The decision by Indian officials is not entirely surprising since the RBI has for several months now reiterated the risks associated with cryptocurrencies. As such, it is likely that many of the India cryptocurrency entities have always been prepared for such developments. In other countries, the alternative has been moving to crypto-friendly countries such as Malta and Switzerland. All that matters now is that bitcoin trading has not been banned in the country but in case it happens, there are viable options for the crypto operations. We will just have to wait and see how it all plays out.