Many years from now, a cigar shop in Albuquerque, N.M. — and not some trendy establishment in Silicon Valley — will have gone done in history for having the first bitcoin vending machine available to the public in the United States.
The machine made its debut Tuesday at the cigar shop Imbibe near the University of New Mexico,
Manufacturer Lamassu, Inc. announced Tuesday that it had permanently installed the vending machine at Imbibe, described as an upscale cigar bar and lounge in the Nob Hill neighborhood of Albuquerque, adjacent to the University of New Mexico.
How does it work? Lamassu says: It scans your bitcoin QR code from your smartphone, you insert cash and you have bitcoins in your digital currency wallet. “Fiat to Bitcoin in fifteen seconds,” says Lamassu on its website. (see video below)
The service is available now, and a launch party is slated at Imbibe for Friday.
Eric Stromberg, a bitcoin consultant and entrepreneur whose company Enchanted Bitcoins owns the vending machine, said he has established a full AML (anti-money laundering program” and has registered as a money services business with the Treasury’s FinCEN (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network) unit, as is required by federal law.
Stromberg apparently beat prospective bitcoin vending machine operators in New York and San Francisco, who were trying to be the first but got mired in regulatory red tape.
“I can’t really afford to hire a team of lawyers to walk me through the legal issues involved with this machine,” Cole Albon, who has a Lamassu vending machine, told Mashable. “I do not wish to pick a fight with any government official, but I feel that rather than throw people in jail for money laundering, the government should offer up some resources into making [anti-money laundering] compliance easier for the little guy.”
Albon told Mashable that has not been able to deploy his machine because California requires a $250,000 bond to operate the device. That’s in addition to the strict anti-money laundering program. Albon said a more relaxed regulation in New Mexico allowed it to become the home to the first bitcoin vending machine.
Stromberg, who initially hoped to place his machine in San Francisco, also said that the regulatory climate in New Mexico made it a better choice than California.
“This is very special for us,” says Zach Harvey, CEO of Lamassu.”Enchanted Bitcoins are paving the way for mainstream bitcoin accessibility in the Unites States. They have put in a lot of time and effort on the compliance side, and we’re very excited to see them open for business.”
Meanwhile, the first U.S. bitcoin ATM is looming. Robocoin, a Las Vegas-based company that installed its first bitcoin ATM in Vancouver last year, has said it will install the first U.S. bitcoin ATMs later this month.