Optimism Grows as Isle of Man Bitcoin Conference Draws to Close

By September 18, 2014Bitcoin Business
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Sept 18 - TGBEX
Sept 18 - TGBEX

The big news from Crypto Valley Summit’s closing day was that the Isle of Man is currently considering whether to allow residents the ability to pay their government bills, including income and other taxes, with bitcoin.

The announcement was made during the event’s closing speech by Chris Corlett, chief executive of the government’s Department of Economic Development, which is in charge of setting policy on economic and jobs growth on the island.

Corlett said:

“We are considering what services we can deploy to allow these emerging payment types as part of our portfolio. We are seeking payment methods that provide the lowest cost and greatest convenience to citizens and businesses.”

The Isle of Man government is formally accepting ‘expressions of interest’ from payments providers who can supply digital currency or card payments systems to the government.

These systems would be available to businesses and citizens to pay for bills ranging from road tax to income tax, Corlett told CoinDesk.

Seaside success story

Corlett prefaced the announcement with a recounting of the island’s economic growth over the last three decades.

Describing the island as a “fading Victorian seaside resort” when he was growing up, Corlett noted that 30 years ago, the Isle of Man’s per capita GDP was about half the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average.

Today, he said, it is more than double that measure.

Isle of man
Isle of man

The island’s growth has been helped in recent years by the number of online gambling companies who base their operations there. The world’s largest online poker firm, Poker Stars, for example, had only four staff when it started on the island, but employs nearly 300 people today, Corlett said.

“We can now pat ourselves on the back for our successful e-gaming sector, but there were plenty of mistakes in the early days [...] But you have to take risks, we have tried to innovate responsibly, but we do need to protect our consumers and protect our reputation,” he said.

Brock Pierce at Crypto Valley Summit
Brock Pierce at Crypto Valley Summit

Corlett underlined the importance of the ˝e-business˝ sector, which includes digital currency companies, in the projected growth of the island’s economy.

“It’s front and centre for us as an economy and as a government. We need to create the right environment for e-business to thrive,” he said.

Currency and beyond

Corlett’s talk followed presentations by Bruce Fenton of the non-profit group Bitcoin Association and David Johnston of the Decentralised Applications Fund.

Fenton discussed the technological impact cryptocurrency will have, even if bitcoin as a currency doesn’t take off, saying:

“Some die-hard people in the bitcoin space think it’s going to wipe out banks or governments or something like that. But, it doesn’t have to come anything near that. The technology is here to stay.”

Johnston, however, explored the potential of applications built on top of the block chain, emphasising the myriad ways in which decentralisation could create value for users.

“We now have lower level protocols, but it’s starting to evolve into higher level applications that we can build on. We will see an explosion of decentralised applications,” he said.

Business showcase

Before the talks, conference delegates could have face-to-face sessions with a variety of professional services providers based on the Isle of Man.

These included global consulting and accountancy firms like KPMG, a major sponsor of the conference, and local firms like Boston Trust, which provides consulting services to firms, especially in the online gambling sector.

Some local startups also set up booths in the courtyard of the Sefton Hotel, where the conference was located on its second day.

One of them was TGBEX, which makes physical bitcoins out of a variety of metals, including gold and silver. The firm was launching its products, hoping to start marketing in time for the Christmas gifting season, said co-founder Richard Owusu-Awuah.

Sept 18 - TGBEX
Sept 18 - TGBEX

Each coin is engraved with a map of the world, with a private key hidden behind a holographic sticker on the back. The public key is printed on the sticker.

Movie star entrepreneur

Delegates rolled into the conference following a dinner the previous night that featured a speech from GoCoin co-founder and active angel investor Brock Pierce.

Pierce took the podium in the restaurant of the Claremont Hotel after a trailer of the 1996 movie First Kid was played. The movie starred Sinbad as a bodyguard of the US president’s son, played by Pierce.

“I don’t think I’ve seen any of my movies since I was 15 or 16 [years old], probably because I didn’t want to be reminded of how bad I was,” Pierce said of his early career as a child actor.

“Talking about this can make me blush,” he added.

The announcement was made during the event’s closing speech by  Chris Corlett , chief executive of the government’s Department of Economic Development, which is in charge of setting policy on economic and jobs growth on the island.

Corlett said: […]

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