Las Vegas-based Robocoin, which installed the first permanent bitcoin ATM in Canada last year, claims that residents of Seattle and Austin will have access to machines of their own by the end of February.
According to Reuters, Robocoin says that the machines, which allow users to swap dollars for bitcoins and vice versa, will come equipped with scanners that can identify users by their driver’s licenses or passports.
Meanwhile, another company claims it has launched a bitcoin on Tuesday in New Mexico (picture and detail below).
Bitcoin watchers may wish to take the report with a grain of salt, however. Last year, Robocoin’s CEO told media outlets that bitcoin ATMs would arrive in cities like New York and Los Angeles by January, but none have materialized. And when I visited the Vancouver ATM in late December, its operators said they were installing machines in other Canadian cities — but for now, there’s still just the one.
The slow pace of the ATM rollouts may be due to the sticky process of ensuring that the machines comply with money transfer laws. In Vancouver, for instance, the ATM includes a biometric sensor to ensure the same person doesn’t exchange more than $3,000 a day (the sensor wasn’t working when I visited). Such laws may explain Robocoin’s prediction that the Seattle and Austin machines will include ID scanners.
The verdict is still out on the business case for bitcoin ATMs. In the case of the Vancouver ATM, users pay a five percent commission to the machine operator — which is significantly higher than the amount charged by online exchanges like Coinbase. The ATM operator pays a fee to the coffee shop that hosts the machine and, as Wired points out, the machine requires a “chaperone.”
Meanwhile, bitcoin prices appear to have held up in the face of new crises at large exchanges MtGox and Bitstamp. Coinbase lists the current value at around $630.
Here’s a picture of a Bbtcoin ATM that allegedly went live in Albuquerque today, and a related press release:
This story was updated at 3:10pm ET to add information about the New Mexico ATM.