SINGAPORE - Bitcoin users here can now cash out their cryptocurrency at a dual-function automated teller machine in Boon Tat Street, which was officially launched yesterday.
The machine, operated by Singapore-based company Coin Republic, is the latest to join the slew of bitcoin ATMs here - the rest of which, however, currently offer only a cash-in function that converts fiat currency - or money that derives its value from government regulation or law - into bitcoin.
"It's a convenient avenue for people to easily and comfortably exchange their bitcoin for cash, instead of doing it on an exchange," said director David Moskowitz.
It takes at least one day for transactions to be carried out on bitcoin exchanges, depending on wire-transfer processing times.
Siting the machine in a restaurant - Bartini Kitchen - "made sense" for Mr Moskowitz because the owners themselves were like-minded bitcoin enthusiasts, and it was cheaper to do so there than in a shopping mall.
MyPaper understands that the monthly rental rate for an ATM space in a shopping centre is about $3,000.
Coin Republic's machine, which is produced by RoboCoin, the company behind the world's first ATM in Vancouver, comes with know-your-customer functions such as a camera, an identification card scanner, and a palm-print reader.
But Mr Moskowitz said that these verification features will be turned on only when the new regulations from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) kick in within the next 12 months. The new rules require bitcoin exchanges, brokers and machine operators to verify the identities of their customers and report suspicious transactions.
"Having the regulations will definitely add costs to our operations and slow down processes," said Mr Moskowitz. "But we'll take them in our stride."
For Mr Tomas Forgac, the founder of a bitcoin point-of-sale system called BTCPOS, the regulations serve only to "make lives more complicated, especially for small-time businesses trying to make an honest living".
But the announcement from MAS has done little to deter other bitcoin ATM operators from rolling out more machines here.
Tembusu Terminals told MyPaper that it plans to launch at least 100 machines here by the end of the year.
Mr Rajesh Sreenivasan, partner and head of the technology law practice at law firm Rajah & Tann, said that regulations are necessary for any sort of industry to develop, because they "provide some level of certainty" for businesses and consumers alike.
"Having a formal regulatory framework...will help (bitcoin) intermediaries operate in a responsible manner," he said, adding that it is "a clear indication that the Government is serious about regulating this space".
"This is a much more progressive approach than the hard-nosed stance taken by some other countries that have declared, for instance, that bitcoin is illegal," he said.
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