Greece could soon get 1,000 bitcoin ATMs

Bitcoin ATMs could spring up across Greece as soon as October as citizens and businesses become increasingly desperate to move their money despite capital controls.

BTCGreece, which bills itself as the country's first bitcoin exchange, plans to eventually install 1,000 ATMs nationwide, in partnership with European bitcoin platform, Cubits.


A Bitcoin ATM machine at a restaurant in San Diego, Calif.
Mike Blake | Reuters
A Bitcoin ATM machine at a restaurant in San Diego, Calif.

Thanos Marinos, the founder of BTCGreece, told CNBC on Wednesday that a soft launch was on the cards for October.

"It is part of my vision to create a block chain ecosystem in Greece," he told CNBC. "If all goes as expected with no major issues we will launch first ATMs October 2015."

Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency that can be used around the world. Transactions are listed in a shared public ledger called the block chain.

The digital currency has been touted as one way to to circumvent Greek capital controls. These have been in place since June and limit domestic investors to withdrawing no more than 60 euros ($66) per day from Greek banks, making life extremely tough for companies that need to pay or receive bills. Greek individuals and businesses are also forbidden from moving money to bank accounts abroad.

The ATMs envisaged by Marinos could allow users to convert fiat currency into bitcoin and potentially vice versa.

As yet, BTCGreece has no ATMs in Greece. However, Marinos said he had already received requests from 300 shops for bitcoin ATMs.

"We want to do it cautiously," he told CNBC, adding that BTCGreece would announce more partnerships next week.

Bitcoin rallied in June amid reports that Greeks were flocking to the currency in order to circumvent the controls. However, the currency's decentralized nature makes it challenging to say how many Greeks currently use it.

Bitcoin ATMs have already been installed in other countries, predominately in the U.S. and Western European countries like the U.K., the Netherlands and Spain.

"There has been a focus on bitcoin and Greece and the economic instability there," Akif Khan, chief commercial officer at digital commerce company, Bitnet, told CNBC on Wednesday.

"So in one sense it will be an interesting experiment to see if Greeks do gravitate towards bitcoin as one of the tools in their financial toolkit to try and cope."

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Belfast-based Khan added that Greece's regulatory environment was conducive to introducing ATMs.

"In principle, putting bitcoin ATMs into Greece is just as feasible as in any other European country… Greece does not have a prohibitive regulatory environment in this regard," he told CNBC.