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Coinatmradar, a website mapping and tracking trends for Bitcoin ATMs (BTMs) around the world, recently released their 2016 data as well as projected trends for 2017. According to the site, the United States is dominating the BTM market with market share of 73 percent.
Also read: 10,000+ EU ATMs to Cash Out Bitcoin
At press time, Coinatmradar displays 951 BTMs in 55 countries from 192 operators, 555 of which are located in the United States. The country with the second most BTMs is Canada with 136 BTMs, followed by the United Kingdom with 47 BTMs, the site shows. The U.S. has been dominating the market since the site started providing data in 2014. “United States of America market will be still dominating with potentially increasing its share further,” states Coinatmradar’s most recent blog post.
The BTM numbers do not include kiosks, retail outlets, and other machines worldwide that sell bitcoin as one of their many functions. Coinatmradar currently shows over 36,000 of non-BTM locations globally to buy bitcoin such as the Swiss railway machines and Canada’s Flexepin system. On Coinmap, there are a total number of 8,497 merchants worldwide including ATMs listed.
Bitcoin.com interviewed Vlad of CoinATMRadar about the growth trend of the BTM industry from his perspective, and why so many operators are choosing the U.S.
U.S. Dominant Market
Bitcoin.com (BC): The BTM industry appears to be growing faster as time goes by. Where does Coinatmradar see the growth coming from?
Coinatmradar (CAR): The U.S. is dominating bitcoin ATM market with 73% of all machines worldwide (share was growing steadily over last 2 years), most new installations happen there. Also it is usually existing operators enlarge their networks of machines, while new operators also appear, but not at that scale.
The U.S. is dominating bitcoin ATM market with 73% of all machines worldwide.
BC: Privacy has always been a huge reason for people to choose BTMs over bitcoin exchanges. Are the BTM manufacturers now only making machines that require identification?
CAR: All top bitcoin ATM manufacturers have identification features implemented, like ID scan, phone registration per SMS etc. The other question is whether all operators use it, and it depends mostly on geographic area and what kind of regulation is there, also depends on ATM operator risks tolerance.
From what I see almost all machines in regulated areas have limits and verification implemented in some form. That is the legal requirement, and not obeying can result in huge fines or even jail trial. However, there are still sometimes machines where you can buy bitcoins without registration, but I see fewer and fewer of those, as long as regulation matures.
I mean definitely some customers use machines wearing hoods and sunglasses and supplying burn phone numbers, although it might not work in many cases.
Why People Use BTMs
But there are other categories of customers who use it not solely because of privacy reasons.
It is much easier to obtain bitcoins via machine than exchange, especially for new bitcoin users. You don’t need to register and wait for approval, also you operate with cash, and many people simply don’t have bank accounts.
I’ve heard about other cases like someone was remitting money to a friend, who just went over the sell bitcoin process and showing QR code displayed at the machine to a friend over skype call, and then his friend initiated the transaction on bitcoin machine remotely by sending bitcoins to this address, which dispensed bills shortly. That was the time when 0-confirmation transactions were treated differently, I know some operators have still immediate dispensing feature depending on the amount. So this was immediate remittance transaction, and if you are at a machine which charges 7% on small amounts you are better off than using WU [Western Union] for example, given that sender already has bitcoins.
BC: North America, despite having a strong fiat currencies already, seems to get
far more BTMs than other regions, such as South America. Can you explain why the BTMs are being deployed so much more in there instead of where they may be needed more?
CAR: I can only assume. There are several factors that I see:
An average buy-only machine costs $3,000-7,000, which can be a lot in
developing countries rather than developed, where wealth level is higher.
- Criminal activity. There are many cases of machines being stolen or damaged even in the U.S. I think the figures will be even higher in developing countries. So the risks of running these machines there are higher.
- Demand. Or lack of it. I don’t have in particular for usage of machines in South America. I know some machines in Mexico were not economically profitable and were closed down.
- Regulation. Rules are stricter there as bitcoin can be seen as an escape from existing controlled systems.
- Financial level penetration. When you operate a machine you need to create a full closed cycle (customers provide bitcoin-to-cash conversion, so operators need to organize cash-to-bitcoin exchange). If it is harder to get access to financial services, then it is harder to organize such a business. I mean, even in the US, it is very hard to find a banking partner, who will knowingly provide access to an account. Bitcoin ATM business is connected with cash brought regularly and being deposited to an account. It is a high-risk profile for financial institutions.
BC: Are any countries outright banning BTMs?
E.g. you can not find a single machine in Russia or India. Sometimes, it is not about a ban, but rather about very strict regulation and requirements, e.g. in Germany in order to operate a bitcoin machine you are required to obtain similar as bank level license from BaFin, which makes it practically impossible to run a machine there. There were some installed before, but closed later on, in many cases due to regulation.
What do you think of the Bitcoin ATM market? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Skype, Coinatmradar, Chargebacks911
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