Bitcoin may be a virtual currency, but what could be more tangible than an ATM dispensing Bitcoins?
That is exactly what a US businessman Jeff Berwick is planning to install in Cyprus, despite the country’s ravaged economy – or perhaps precisely because of it. As the events of the last few weeks have shown, the value of this special means of exchange skyrocketed on the heels of the Cypriot financial troubles.
Fueled in part by worries concerning the long-term safety of private bank accounts in Europe, a significant number of people have started converting their savings into a currency, which is well known for a lack of central control, taxation and supervision.
Building on that search for a safe haven, Berwick has ambitious plans for Bitcoin ATMs in various locations, with the pilot projects expected to become operational this month in LA and Cyprus.
Although the days of buying souvlakia with Bitcoins may never arrive, large establishments such as land-based casinos could be in a good position to experiment with Bitcoins, just like some of the rival online casinos have already done.
Those, for example, who play online poker in Cyprus through WinPoker, must have already noticed the site adding Bitcoins to its available payment options.
And since Cypriot gambling laws are about to be amended to re-allow brick-and-mortar casino gambling on the island, future tourists visiting Cyprus may wish to invest in Bitcoins before their trip, rather than a credit or debit card, which proved useless when all the classic ATMs were down during the crisis. After all, a Bitcoin ATM would face less difficulty, considering that no bank funds would be drained directly by its use.
The reason behind it is the main difference between Bitcoin ATMs and traditional ones, which is not not on the outside, but in the software. While regular ATMs connect to a bank account somewhere along the line, these machines would actually check the user’s Bitcoin account online and then convert cash to Bitcoins and vice versa.
Considering that the banks in Cyprus reopened recently with strict capital control measures in place (a EUR 300 cap on daily cash withdrawals), alternative solutions for everyday financial safety, such as using Bitcoins, may be welcome by Cypriots.