It’s 11:15 p.m. on a Friday night and a man in a white button-down shirt named Joey just ordered me a shot of Fireball. It’s a little hard to hear him over the music blasting from the other side of the velvet ropes, but the club’s director of services leans in close to make sure I can hear him.
“Excellence and hospitality in the crypto world,” Joey says in response to my request that he describe just what, exactly, is going on here.
I’m sitting on a spacious couch in a private club, inside of another nightclub, inside of a casino, and we’re discussing Las Vegas’s first cryptocurrency nightclub: MORE Las Vegas. Launched in April by Peter Klamka — a man known for, among other things, his involvement with The Legends Room gentlemen’s club which allowed patrons to tip performers in bitcoin — the nightclub comes with all the trappings of a typical VIP Vegas destination. There’s the $250,000 bottles of champagne, high-heeled cocktail waitresses, and view of the Bellagio fountains that’s to die for.
Unlike every other club in Las Vegas, however, this one has its own cryptocurrency — a currency you need to HODL to even get through the front door.
Party through the Crypto Winter
It has not been a good year for the price of cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin and ether are way down from their late 2017 and early 2018 highs, and most altcoins have fared significantly worse. Meanwhile, in the background, ICOs are revealed as scams at a disturbingly regular clip, and the SEC keeps dragging its heels on a proposed bitcoin ETF.
Bitcoin, ether and altcoins (Pixabay)
The much-maligned talk of Lambos has shifted to progressively less convincing explanations as to why all of this is actually good for bitcoin.
Still, some people are getting — or, if they sold at the right time, remain — undeniably rich. It is often that crew, the group who either through dumb luck or skill managed to retain its newfound wealth while the market bled, who feels the most committed to its bitcoin maximalist or Ethereum-world vision.
Their livelihood depends on it, after all. And they like to party with each other.
It was with all this in mind that I accepted an invitation to check out MORE Las Vegas. I’d be in Vegas anyway for DEF CON, and this seemed like a great opportunity to see what a city that practically defines opulence does when it sticks its toes into the world of cryptocurrency.
Well, what is does is MORE Las Vegas — a club with its own token that doubles as a de facto membership fee. Owning 5,000 MORE Coins or more makes you a MORE Las Vegas member.
“[MORE Coin is] the intersection of nightlife and crypto demonstrating a real-world application of blockchain tech,” Klamka told me later that night.
The coin trades on the Bittrex exchange, and was created at the behest of Klamka. At the time of this writing, the ERC-20 token built on the Ethereum blockchain is listed at just over 15 cents with a 24-hour trading volume of $201.
MORE Las Vegas is essentially a special VIP area inside of the Hyde nightclub, which itself is located inside of the Bellagio hotel and casino. To get in, you have to first reach out to Joey. This both gives you an opportunity to let the club know you’re coming, and to prove your stake in the coin.
Bellagio Hotel and Casino (Wikimedia Commons)
The floor staff is trained to accept cryptocurrency as payment, though interestingly all the prices on the bottle-service menu are listed in USD. And the staff isn’t picky about how you pay. Want to send them $100,000 worth of bitcoin for that 15-liter bottle of Ace of Spades champagne? They’re happy to take it.
Want to pay in MORE Coin? Well, that’s fine too.
According to a MORE Las Vegas spokesperson, the club has around 1,500 members — though, she emphasized, as the only thing that makes you a member is coin ownership, the number changes all the time.
The place was about a third full when I arrived at 11 p.m. on Friday, which, in all fairness, is well before a Las Vegas club gets going. A look around at the clientele revealed what appeared to be typical Vegas nightclub goers: They were well-dressed and young with money to spend.
Essentially, just like every other place on the Strip. Had crypto finally hit mainstream adoption?
But that changed shortly after we went outside to the club’s stunning private patio. Directly at ground level, it overlooked the Bellagio fountains and was clearly a big selling point for Klamka. Shortly after our interview concluded, Klamka left the patio to soon return with a group of young men that much more closely aligned with the stereotype of someone all in on crypto.
One of the group, covered in various crypto tattoos, had a scrolling LED hat that brightly read “BITCOIN.” Below his shorts, high bitcoin-themed socks complimented some form of fuzzy slipper.
The club had a strict dress code, and while it wasn’t clear if this new arrival’s garb fell within it, that clearly hadn’t stopped him from getting in.
We struck up a conversation, and soon realized we were both in town for the DEF CON hacking convention. When I asked him if he was worried that his tattoos might make him a target for hackers, he shrugged off the possibility.
He kept most of his crypto in cold storage, he assured me. His blinding hat made conversation difficult.
When his friends settled the bill later in the night, they appeared 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, it is possibly something more. It’s an actual brick-and-mortar business, after all, in an industry that is flush with grand ideas but lacking in execution.
Klamka spoke of plans to open additional locations in Miami and elsewhere, and described a business model where people buy and sell club memberships on the blockchain. This was a real-world application, albeit an extremely boozy one, of an ERC-20 token.
It may not have been what Vitalik Buterin had in mind, but I can’t imagine that would bother Klamka too much.
After all, he’s got a business to run and a coin to promote — and you’d better believe he’s HODLing.