The FIFA World Cup currently being held in Russia highlights the world’s best footballers and also gives the possibility to get to know more about life in the host country. Hundreds of thousands of fans from all over the world have come to the championship host cities. While there, they will purchase souvenirs, eat in restaurants, and enjoy the nightlife in clubs. Is this World Cup the global event where cryptocurrencies gain traction as a payment mechanism despite the fact that they are not regulated by Russian legislation in any concrete way? We decided to check how things really stand with paying for services using cryptocurrencies, and went to the shops that have announced in one way or another that they work with digital currencies.
A restaurant called Valenok, which specializes in Russian cuisine, was one of the first places in Moscow to begin accepting cryptocurrencies as payment. A client paid for his dinner there using bitcoin as early as last year, an event which was covered extensively by the local media.
Our conversation with Viktoria, a restaurant employee, started as follows: “Hello, I would like to reserve a table for me and my friends from Serbia, but there is one nuance: they would like to pay using bitcoin.” She initially brightened up at the unexpected request and nodded her assent, but suddenly she paused to think and asked us to wait for a minute. “I know for a fact that we have accepted bitcoins several times in the past, but I have to ask whether we can do so right now,” she said and went to confer with the manager. Viktoria returned after about 30 seconds, apologized, and said ruefully: “We are not taking cryptocurrencies right now, but you can pay with a card or with cash. We may start accepting digital currencies again at some point in the future, but I have no idea when that might be.”
Oh well, we were off to a rocky start, but there was no need to get discouraged!
The next place we decided to visit was LavkaLavka, a farmers’ cooperative that advertises the possibility to pay for products using bitcoins on its official website.
“Unfortunately, we are temporarily not accepting bitcoins,” the store manager immediately doubled our disappointment, but added: “On the Internet you can pay for any product using our native cryptocurrency BioCoin. It can be purchased on an exchange or received as a bonus on each purchase depending on the amount of the bill.”
Not losing heart, we headed to one of the Pivoteka 465 chain of craft beer and cider bars and stores.
“Sure, you can pay here in bitcoins. We will generate a QR code for you at the cash register, and you can debit the required amount from your electronic wallet using your smartphone,” the waiter explained.
That is just what we did, and it worked brilliantly: the most popular drink among football fans in Moscow can be purchased using cryptocurrency!
By the way, we also tried to reserve a room in an SPBInn hotel in Saint Petersburg using bitcoin, and we were successful. All we needed to do was to send the required amount in cryptocurrency to the hotel’s electronic wallet address and call the manager to confirm that the money had been received. Very convenient!
It must be said, however, that all of these scenarios are more the exception than the rule. Most places, even in downtown Moscow, do not accept digital currencies, to say nothing of the other smaller host cities, where cryptocurrencies are only on the radar of individual enthusiasts. Besides, even the fans we questioned for now prefer to pay in more traditional ways, either by card or in cash: on game days there are long lines at the exchange offices in downtown Moscow.
“It is encouraging that some shops are trying to work with cryptocurrencies in theory. It means that we are not just spinning our wheels, some progress is being made and people are ready to pick up on new market trends and form offers, even when the demand for them is still low,” comments Daria Generalova, co-founder of ICOBox, the world’s largest supplier of SaaS solutions for preparing for and holding ICOs. “Of course, it is still early to talk about this World Cup flying the flag of cryptocurrencies, but I do not rule out the possibility that the situation in Russia and Europe may change over the next two years. Digital currencies will be regulated, and market participants will begin to understand the rules for working with them.”
So, the final score in our attempts to pay using Bitcoin in Russia ended up as a respectable 2:2 tie — two food places refusing to serve us with our Bitcoins while a bar and hotel accepted. Let’s hope for a stronger result at the next World Cup in Qatar in 2022.