Cryptocurrency making a wave in Baton Rouge, lawmakers hope to create rules for it


BATON ROUGE – Cryptocurrency is the buzz of the business world. Dozens of Bitcoin ATM’s have been popping up in the capital area, giving consumers the chance to trade in their cash for cryptocurrency.

With Bitcoin skyrocketing, that’s got the attention of state lawmakers who are looking at ways to regulate what some are calling the currency of the future.

At convenience stores across the Baton Rouge area, ATM’s have been making it more convenient for people to buy the cryptocurrency. Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, is a digital or virtual currency that stores value, like gold, and it can be exchanged for goods and services.

“I’ve seen to where before we had to meet at coffee shops to buy it,” said James Christina, owner of Chateau Jacques apartments on Florida Boulevard.

He and his husband, Tom Nelson, have been investing in Bitcoin for years. He’s even ready to accept crypto for rent payments.

“Cryptocurrency is for everybody, and it has the same rules and simple rules for everyone which makes it accessible. And it’s not intimidating,” Nelson said.

“Our money is becoming worth less, and this is a way to get away from some of that inflation and keep our money safe,” Christina explained.

The digital currency is completely independent of a central bank, making it confidential, impossible to counterfeit, and exclusive with only 21 million bitcoin mined.

Going from $8,000 at the top of the year to hitting an all-time high of $64,000 last month, it has businesses interested. The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) is keeping an eye on how local businesses will use the technology.

“Businesses have to go where demand drives them, and here’s a situation with new currency that’s not the U.S. dollar that more and more people are using,” said Andrew Fitzgerald, senior director of business intelligence at BRAC. “That’s part of the reason we’re seeing crypto prices go up so much, but you’re also seeing businesses accept them because consumers want to spend them.”

In the current legislative session, House Bill 482 would create a framework, allowing startups to experiment with crypto and ensure compliance with existing business regulations and security checks. The bill passed the house in a unanimous vote, and it’s now in the Senate Committee on Commerce.

According to BRAC, they are watching how cities like Miami expand their use of crypto in local government and how that bill can help Baton Rouge businesses use the blockchain technology.

“What this does is it provides blockchain businesses, which are all pretty new and novel, some sort of guardrails and some sort of knowledge of how the state is going to treat them from a regulatory stand point without boxing them in. Because we need to see where the technology goes,” Fitzgerald explained.

While some businesses wait for the bill to pass, ardent supporters are ready for the next phase.

Some financial experts predict more businesses will embrace crypto in the coming year, and large institutions, like Visa, are creating systems for their customers to save and use bitcoin.

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