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Australia’s first bitcoin ATM was last week unveiled inside the Westfield shopping centre in central Sydney.
The machine, developed by ABA Technologies, allows users to buy and sell the virtual currency or convert it to cash.
ABA Technologies CEO Chris Chris Guzowski told SBS the company had since been contacted by a number of retailers interested in accepting the currency.
“We’ve had many retailers approach us because they can see the demand and the popularity of this bitcoin ATM and how many users are in fact interested in using this technology,” he said.
But some retailers had reservations.
Sydney pharmacist David Glover told SBS his business would not be accepting the currency at this stage.
“I think the situation worldwide is that we’re not sure how far bitcoin is going,” he said.
“People are paying for coffees and bottles of water but if they came in wanting to pay for prescriptions with it, I’d be a bit concerned.”
The rise of virtual currencies
Bitcoin was invented in 2009 by an anonymous person, or group, known as “Satoshi Nakamoto”.
The digital currency can be used to pay for a range of goods and services and is hailed for being quick, efficient and virtually free of fees.
A handful of Australian businesses, including Sydney pub the Old Fitzroy Hotel and Melbourne jewellery store Eclectico, are already accepting the currency.
Manager of the Old Fitzroy Hotel Garry Pasfield said on the day he launched bitcoin at the pub, the currency made up one-third of trade.
Now he estimated about one person per day paid with it.
Mr Pasfield said he was surprised more businesses weren’t following his lead.
“It surprises me that more don’t accept bitcoin; it’s an opportunity to get more business,” he said.
But David Glover, who operates a central Sydney pharmacy, said he did not feel that accepting bitcoin was essential to staying competitive.
“I think the market is well served by credit-card facilities that are available to everybody,” he said.
But he conceded that could change with time.
“The younger generation will pick it up. Perhaps the older generation might take a while longer.”
A growing market
Although bitcoin is the most widely used cryptocurrency, there are a number of others out there, including Litecoin, Feathercoin and Dogecoin.
The value of a bitcoin fluctuates daily, and can be calculated online.
At the time of writing, the value of one bitcoin is $AUD542. In 2013, its value briefly soared to more than $US1000 per coin.
Such fluctuations have been cited by critics as one of the currency’s flaws.
Gary Pasfield said business owners were protected from this by being given the option of accepting payments in bitcoin or in Australian dollars.
“I’m a big supporter of it because I don’t have any exposure to fluctuations,” he said.
“Bitcoin fluctuates daily but because I accept my payments in Australian dollars, I’ve got no exposure to it.
“It’s exactly like doing an Eftpos transaction.”
But Eclectico owner Alan Cartmell said he had chosen to accept his bitcoin payments in bitcoin – rather than Australian dollars – because it was an investment.
“I see bitcoin increasing in value over time,” he said.
But he said it was a risk he wouldn’t take if bitcoin made up a larger portion of his business.
Mr Cartmell said shoppers didn’t use bitcoin much at the moment – he estimated about two customers per week at his store – but said it could become more mainstream.
“I think it’s still at stage where people have invested in it but it’s not really being used and spent every day,” he said.
“I think if the price becomes more stable then it will probably become more widespread.”
ABA Technologies plans to roll out 100 more bitcoin ATMs in Australia before the end of 2016.
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