Don't Hold Your Breath for NYC 'Bitcoin ATM'
When the manufacturer Lamassu showcased its bitcoin-generating machine at CES last week, it got a few press bites.
This week, it's getting far more. That's because a Brooklyn man the New York Post names as Willard Ling has purchased one of the $5,000 machines. And he's allegedly in talks with an ice cream and bubble tea shop in New York City's East Village to install it.
The machine is dubbed a "bitcoin ATM," but since bitcoins are a digital cryptocurrency with no physical iteration, it dispenses nothing into one's hand. Instead, when a user inserts dollars--or any of some 200 global currencies--into the machine, bitcoins appear in the user's digital bitcoin wallet. The company claims this transaction only takes seconds. Wired's Mat Honan writes, "It's magical."
Magic, maybe--but it's a long way off. Before the shop, the Just Sweet Café, gets the machine installed, New York City has a lot to iron out in terms of creating a regulatory framework for bitcoin. The New York City Department of Financial Services is responsible for doing so, and is holding public meetings on licensing and regulating bitcoin use in New York City starting January 28.
Lamassu, the maker of the 100-pound steel-encased ATM, which is assembled in Portugal, claims to have sold 130 of the machines, which are in 25 cities. Here's a map of where orders came from, via Lamassu.
The machine charges customers a fee of 2.5 percent to convert currency to Bitcoin.
Want to see one of these machines? Currently, the New York one is sitting idle in Ling's apartment. Another is on its way to Sao Paolo, Brazil, for display--and ostensible use--in a booth at the Campus Party tech event, which opens January 27. The company tells Wired its machines are already operational in Finland, Slovakia, and Australia.
I'd venture that it'll be more than a year before we see a bubble tea shop--or anywhere else--in New York legally operating a Bitcoin machine. With the city having subpoenaed 22 bitcoin-related companies for information on how they operate in summer, and public hearings just beginning this month, you can bet it's going to be a long and complex process for the city's financial services department to establish a regulatory framework for use of alternative currencies.
What's more: It has already set a goal of creating a new license for vendors looking to use alternative currencies, which it's dubbed a BitLicense. And that could be years in the future.
CHRISTINE LAGORIO-CHAFKIN | Staff Writer | Senior Writer
Christine Lagorio-Chafkin is a writer, editor, and reporter whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Village Voice, and The Believer, among other publications. She is a senior writer at Inc.