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Coin Cloud is a bitcoin ATM company pioneering compliance and convenience. Find a location near you.

Contact us if you are interested in bringing bitcoin to your retail location.

Pro-tip: Hold onto your bitcoin private keys!

Avoid storing your bitcoins on centralized online exchanges! The recent $65 million hack of Bitfinex highlights the risk bitcoin users take when storing their bitcoin on a centralized service. Big bitcoin exchanges like Bitfinex and MTGox can accumulate hundreds of millions of dollars worth of customers bitcoin. These huge sums attract the hackers and make it very worth their while to find a way to steal the bitcoin. A recent report states "33% of all bitcoin exchanges operational during 2009-2015 were hacked".

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Skip the big centralized exchanges! Use a local bitcoin ATM! Have your bitcoin stored directly to your mobile phone wallet by using a bitcoin ATM to purchase and sell your bitcoins. Find a Coin Cloud ATM near you.

The Bitcoin Halvening! Party Like It's Block 420,000

Get ready for the the Bitcoin Halvening this Saturday!  While bitcoin's inflation rate change is controlled by only a few lines of code, it's effects are massive.

And on Saturday, that rate will fall dramatically after an event called “the halving.” Some say the event, which will cut the rate at which new bitcoins are created in half, could cause the price to spike or network security to flounder.

Here’s what you should know:

What is the halving?

Satoshi Nakamoto, the name of the bitcoin creator, intended for the supply of bitcoin to be inherently deflationary (similar to gold), contrasting sharply with the policies of Central Banks, which can, in theory, print a limitless supply of new currency. The idea of a computer controlling the money supply in a transparent and predictable fashion was one famously advocated by economist Milton Friedman.

Satoshi he created a mechanism for gradually reducing the supply of new coins created, and wrote it into the underlying bitcoin software.

This is how bitcoins are created: Miners process transactions on the network by using powerful computers to solve complex cryptographic puzzles that bundle transactions into blocks, which are then stored on the blockchain — the supposedly immutable record of every bitcoin transaction. These computers lend the network the computing power it needs to function.

Miners race to be the first to solve these puzzles. The winner is rewarded with a cache of new bitcoins. This process repeats about every 10 minutes, on average. The time allotted for mining a single block can vary dramatically based on luck.

Miners can hold on to these bitcoins, or turn around and sell them on the open market. Either way, this is the mechanism through which new coins are introduced into the bitcoin ecosystem.

The halving is expected to take place Saturday around 11 a.m. Eastern, when the 420,000th block is mined. The miner who successfully fuses the prior block to the blockchain will be rewarded with 12.5 bitcoins, while the miner who processes the 419,999th block will earn 25.

What’s the price forecast?

Some have attributed the runup in the price of a coin so far this year to anticipation of the halving. The main factor on price will be how many of the 3,600 coins being created daily are being sold on the market to sustain miner's operations. If most are being sold on the market, then the halving could cut that supply in half and lead to a surge in price.

Miners’ margins come under pressure

After the halving, miners will effectively be paid half as much (assuming the bitcoin price remains constant) for expending the same amount of energy. 

If there isn’t an increase in the price of bitcoin, miners with the thinnest margins could struggle, possibly forcing some to turn off their equipment. Miners margins, however, may have already been padded as the bitcoin price has almost doubled in 2016. 

This risks centralizing more control to some of the biggest miners, who have the largest economies of scale, which could further compromise the ideal of bitcoin being a decentralized network. A recent story in the New York Times examined how a handful of large miners in China have effectively assumed majority control of the network.

Some small miners might be able to survive if they have lower operating costs — like cheaper electricity or can plug into an existing datacenter. The impact of the halving isn’t based on size, it’s based on marginal profitability.

There are some cases where a small miner running his or her operation out of an apartment building where the landlord pays for tenants’ electricity could have lower operating costs than a massive miner somewhere else.

Either way it is a good sign that new large mining operations are entering the market. Cybersecurity entrepreneur John McAfee just announced a massive new mining operating in central Washington that will take advantage of cheap hydro-electric energy in the area. This provides evidence that miners are currently profitable and they won't be shutting down miners after the Halvening reduces their productivity by half. 

The true consequences on Bitcoin's security and price may not be known until months after. An optimistic sign is that in 2013, after the December 2012 halving, the price of bitcoin skyrocketed from $10 at the start of the year to over $1000 by the end. 

If you are in Las Vegas on Saturday July 9th come by Rustica Pizzeria for the Las Vegas Bitcoin Halvening party with special guest Andreas Antonopolous!

 

Bitcoin ATMs Are Popular With the Unbanked

From VICE Motherboard

By Justin O'Connell

A trend is emerging in the Bitcoin ATM industry. Demand for the services among the underbanked and unbanked has seen steady growth in the two years since the industry’s first Bitcoin ATMs—often referred to as Bitcoin Transaction Machines, or BTMs—were installed.

"These customers may have a passport and valid ID but may not be interested in setting up a local bank account," Chris McAlary, CEO of Coin Cloud, a Bitcoin ATM operator in the western half of the continental U.S., said of underbanked customers.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) describes the unbanked as adults without an account with a bank or other financial institution. The FDIC estimates 10 million households in the U.S. are unbanked or underbanked. Estimates posit that approximately two billion people are unbanked globally.

Most are American born, but immigrants make up a considerable percentage overall. Research suggests immigrants who have lived through a banking crisis in their home countries are less likely to open a U.S. bank account.

Coin Cloud customers purchase on average $250 worth of bitcoins and sell on average $500 at the machines, according to McAlary. He observes that some individuals use smartphones for their finances—perhaps by downloading a Bitcoin wallet onto it—in place of a traditional bank account. To be sure, the machines don’t work exactly like a traditional ATM. Instead, they are more akin to a vending machine for the digital world or a brick-and-mortar Bitcoin exchange that looks like an ATM.

Today, there are approximately 600 working Bitcoin ATMs, though that number fluctuates as some machines go offline and new ones are deployed. In recent months, many well-financed operators have moved into the space to run networks of Bitcoin ATMs, sometimes on a worldwide basis. The industry has grown so large, operators in Europe employ armory cash pickup services, according to General Bytes’ CEO Karel Kyovsky. The Czech-based General Bytes, the third largest Bitcoin ATM distributor, distributed 95 machines mostly across Europe.

Bitcoin ATM distributors and operators, in the US and Europe, must operate within the purview of know your customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering laws (AML). KYC refers to how a business verifies the identity of its clients. AML refers to the procedures, laws or regulations to stop money laundering.

“Nowadays, there is more of a balance between the customer’s privacy and legal requirements."

Operators running networks of Bitcoin ATMs “is pretty different from 2014 when Bitcoin ATMs were mostly operated by individuals or in small set ups,” CoinatmRadar.com administrator, who goes simply by ‘Vlad’, told Motherboard.CoinatmRadar.com is the central hub for all things Bitcoin ATMs, and Vlad is probably one of the foremost objective experts in the world on the space.

“I think in 2016 this trend will continue to strengthen with more and more professional businesses entering the market, as well as business scale increase for existing operators,” he said. The industry has stood the test of time, thus far, as Bitcoin ATMs look to be one of the easiest ways to purchase digital cash.

Bitcoin ATM industry sources agree that not much happened in the space over the past year in terms of bitcoin volume or developments. The number of Bitcoin ATMs still increased from 330 to approximately 550 bitcoin machines. This year, the global number of Bitcoin ATMs has reached approximately 640, though just how many of those function correctly is unknown. Vlad does much of the heavy lifting to synthesize what’s known.

For the Bitcoin ATM market to continue growing, like other Bitcoin-related businesses, the Bitcoin price must stabilize. In their short tenure, Bitcoin ATM’s have proven an instrumental piece of the Bitcoin ecosystem. When it comes to sending remittances (which Bitcoiners championed as a use for Bitcoin ATMs), and many other money transfer services, Bitcoin ATM’s generally don’t yet make sense compared to the competition due to their high fees. The average fee is currently 8 percent.

“The recipient also needs to convert cryptocurrency to fiat which could mean another 6 percent on the other side,” Vlad explains. This means it could cost as much as fourteen percent to transact at a Bitcoin ATM. Bitcoin price volatility, furthermore, could cost the sender and/or receiver even more.

Zach Harvey, co-founder of the second largest Bitcoin ATM distributor Lamassu, believes the more Bitcoin ATMs there are out there, and more people aware of them, the more useful they will become, and that fees will decrease.

He added: “There are many more potential services that can be carried out on a BTM, once users expect to have them around.”

Yet, there remain hidden costs other than high fees and anti-money laundering procedures for the Bitcoin ATM industry. For instance, it can be difficult to find a bank that will work with a customer depositing a lot of cash—a byproduct of serving the underbanked. Thus, Bitcoin ATM operators must find a workaround, which could further increase costs.

“Another factor is the costs associated with running such a business,” Vlad said. “Hardware costs, rent, liquidity frozen to facilitate operations, compliance policy development and conducting customer checks to follow legal requirements. All this adds to the final costs and is reflected in the fees.” 

 

Members of the Simon Fraser Bitcoin Club unveiling a Bitcoin ATM at SFU Vancouver. Image: Flickr/Simon Fraser University.

Manufacturer Lamassu has seen Bitcoin ATM companies like Robocoin fall, and ones like Genesis grow to become the largest distributor of Bitcoin ATMs. Harvey told Motherboard that his company—like many in the space—foresaw 2015 as the “year of remittances.” The company, founded in New Hampshire, developed a remittance system, but learned the remittances were not yet price-effective for people sending money across borders. This forced them to focus on their core business of cash-to-Bitcoin and Bitcoin-to-cash; in other words, serving the underbanked and unbanked.

The amount of privacy consumers enjoy varies from machine to machine as the industry, and regulators, grapple with the implications of the underbanked and unbanked using Bitcoin ATMs. Vlad believes the industry has come a long way since the days of the failed Las Vegas distributor, Robocoin, which introduced palm scans and other know your customer measures in an attempt at compliance.

These procedures could directly impact those who need the Bitcoin ATMs the most and don’t mind paying the extra fees for a bit of privacy.

“Nowadays, there is more of a balance between the customer’s privacy and legal requirements,” Vlad said.

Currently, there is usually some amount of bitcoins that can be purchased sans KYC verifications; then there is a limit after which a phone number has to be verified (SMS); and then possibly a higher limit, usually several thousand dollars, where an ID scan is required.

“Of course,” Vlad added, “there are extreme cases on both sides, when Bitcoin ATMs require users to be fully verified from the very first dollar exchanged, or on the opposite end of the spectrum where there are no limits nor checks except for the liquidity of the machine’s operator.” Vlad estimates the average transaction on Bitcoin ATM’s worldwide is approximately $200, and the medium about $70-100. Other operators imply similar.

The intersection of the underbanked, and Bitcoin, means that the nature of the Bitcoin ATM industry will differ from jurisdiction-to-jurisdiction. According to Vlad, Canada appears to be “quite free.” But, the future of machines in the US, and particularly New York, land of the BitLicense, remains less clear.

A BitLicense refers to a special business license for virtual currency implemented by the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYSDFS). So far, Circle Internet Financial is the only Bitcoin-related business to have received a such license. Despite this, there are approximately sixty Bitcoin ATM’s in the State of New York. A large share of these are operated by a national company, Coinsource, who declined to give comment about the Bitcoin volume at its machines.

For now, while manufacturers across the board are creating the tools needed to verify identities, most leave it up to the operators themselves—the ones stocking the machines with cash and dealing with customers—to implement procedures themselves based on money transmission laws in the relevant jurisdiction. These procedures could directly impact those who need the Bitcoin ATMs the most and don’t mind paying the extra fees for a bit of privacy—the unbanked and underbanked.

“The unbanked and underbanked are using our services,” Moe Adham, co-founder of the fourth largest distributor, BitAccess, told Motherboard. “Such activity is common for our machines worldwide.”

Coin Cloud Launches 15th Bitcoin ATM!

Seeks to help those left out of financial systerm

By Daniel Cawrey

It's been said the best opportunities for bitcoin are likely in the developing world, where banking infrastructure is not as prevalent. Yet there are emerging opportunities in the United States for bitcoin as well, as one Las Vegas-based company is proving.

Coin Cloud is the largest bitcoin ATM (BTM) operator on the west coast, with over 15 Bitaccess BTM kiosks currently, and plans to continue the rapid expansion nationwide.

Coin Cloud Bitcoin ATM

Coin Cloud Bitcoin ATM

 

Everyday Coin Cloud sees huge demand for bitcoin in the U.S. among the unbanked and underbanked. Looking to service these communities, as well as customers who seek financial service alternatives, Cloud Cloud has built its business with a reputation on reliability and customer service.

Within the Las Vegas and Los Angeles areas in particular, Coin Cloud has many customers without the right credentials to get a bank account. These customers may have, for example, a passport but not a resident ID often required by financial institutions for an account. Others may not speak English or are intimidated walking into a bank. In these cases, people are essentially “swapping a bank account for a smartphone”, said Chris McAlary, CEO of Coin Cloud.

Helping the underbanked is part of Coin Cloud’s goal, said McAlary. BTMs are enabling customers to utilize smartphones as the standard personal finance tool. These kiosks enable transfer from bitcoin to cash, or vice-versa, without requiring a third-party to transfer funds like a bank. Unlike most bitcoin ATMs, Coin Cloud’s fleet is 100% bi-directional. Giving users the option to save, spend, send, or receive. Coinatmradar.com reports only ⅓ of all BTMs allow the sale of bitcoin for cash.

Many are using BTMs to send money out of the country. These are customers who want to send savings to family and friends in other developing countries, where most of the population exists beyond the reach of traditional financial systems. They don’t have the benefit of simply walking into a local bank branch. With the rise of the cellular networks and smartphones, these places have “leapfrogged” this infrastructure. Remitters in the U.S. can turn cash into bitcoin at BTMs. Then, they can transfer BTC to anyone anywhere in the world over the internet.

Another advantage Coin Cloud capitalizes on, especially in Las Vegas, is bitcoin’s frictionless cross-border capabilities. Coin Cloud has international travelers who come to Las Vegas and use bitcoin to bring their bankrolls.

This eliminates the constraints of daily ATM limits, bank fraud alerts or hazards of carrying large amounts of cash. These customers convert stakes from BTC into cash at BTMs such as the one operating at the D Casino.

Coin Cloud continues to look for prime locations to host BTMs nationwide. McAlary said the best places for BTMs are ones with maximum accessibility. Places like 24 hour convenience stores, vape shops and publicly accessible locations in urban areas are ideal hosts.

Much like conventional ATMs, these are locations where people will use BTMs. “The kiosks draw a wide range of new customers, on average 200-300 a month, that would have otherwise not entered a store,” said McAlary.

There is enormous value to society in empowering those underserved by the existing U.S. financial system. Coin Cloud's vision is to leverage bitcoin for the inclusion of all.

 

Why Bitcoin Is Poised To Win Big In Las Vegas

A poker champion (turned bitcoin miner) is going all-in on the cryptocurrency's future there.

MATT VILLANO 09.17.14 6:00 AM

Las Vegas. Tremendous wagers are commonplace in this town, and have been for decades. Big bets on cryptocurrency—those are a bit more unusual.

This explains why a local poker player’s recent investment into bitcoin ATMs has turned so many heads. The entrepreneur, 29-year-old Chris McAlary, essentially has pushed "all-in" on the virtual currency, using the entirety of his liquid assets to found Coin Cloud, a nascent company that operates ATMs for bitcoins.

Coin Cloud operates the first and only bitcoin ATM in a major Casino

Coin Cloud operates the first and only bitcoin ATM in a major Casino

 

McAlary's believes in bitcoin's future as the currency of choice for gamblers. And there is a confluence of factors that might make Las Vegas the perfect place to push bitcoin into mainstream use—if McAlary and like-minded entrepreneurs prove out its use on the Strip, casinos around the world are poised to make bitcoin its currency of choice.

"There’s no question that cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have the potential to be one of the most important innovations of the 21st century," says McAlary. "Las Vegas could be one of the places that really helps drive it all forward."

Specifically, McAlary's company uses ATMs that are Internet-enabled kiosks that allow users to buy or sell bitcoin. The machines that went online this summer are in a particularly prominent spot, steps from the busiest part of the Las Vegas Strip. In the first few weeks, the machine outperformed even McAlary’s most liberal estimates. After 45 days, the Vegas machine overtook the a bitcoin ATM in Vancouver as the No. 1 performing bitcoin ATM in the world. McAlary won’t say exactly how many transactions the machine has handled so far, but hints that volume is already has surpassed $1 million.

There’s no question that cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have the potential to be one of the most important innovations of the 21st century.

While the cryptocurrency has yet to find a home in the average American’s wallet (so to speak), businesses appear to be getting more serious about it. In early September, Braintree, the online and mobile payments platform owned by PayPal,announced it would integrate bitcoin into its business. Other companies, including Expedia, Overstock.com, and Amazon.com also have announced they will accept bitcoin as a method of payment. (Full disclosure: I run a travel blog for Expedia.)

In Vegas, however, especially on the Strip, bitcoin has even more going for it. First of all, because so many people visit Sin City every year, the market attracts a high volume of people looking to spend money. The Viva Vegas souvenir shop, in which McAlary has placed his first ATM (he calls it the "Bitcoin Bodega"), sees more than 100,000 people a day in foot traffic. Las Vegas also draws an international clientele who want to access their money instantaneously, and to gamble without paying transfer fees to centralized banks.

 

In other words, Vegas is primed for a bitcoin run.

BITCOIN 101

What is bitcoin? The answer is more complicated than you think (and more complicated than we journalists usually report). Unveiled in 2009 (the identity of the creator is up for debate), the cryptocurrency is an online payment system that was introduced as open-source software. Under the protocols of this technology, payments are recorded in a public database, which is known as the "blockchain." Because these payments work without a central repository or single administrator (a.k.a., a bank), the U.S. Treasury considers the currency to be decentralized and virtual.

(Also, because the currency is virtual, users must obtain a virtual "wallet" to help record transactions and securely buy, use, and accept the stuff.)

Whatever the Treasury department says about bitcoin, the currency—dubbed bitcoin, with a lowercase B, for those of you scoring at home—certainly is worth serious cash. As of Sept. 9, one bitcoin was equal to $463. If you think that number is high, consider this: At the beginning of 2014, one bitcoin was valued at nearly $1,200.

Photo: Flickr user Dion Hinchcliffe

Part of the reason bitcoin is so valuable is because, unlike paper money, it is a fixed commodity. As a form of currency, bitcoins are created—or mined—as reward for payment processing work in which users offer computing power to verify and record payments into the blockchain. Under current rates, 25 bitcoins will be produced approximately every 10 minutes until the middle of 2016. About 21 million bitcoins are expected to be issued by 2140.

"One of the things that makes bitcoin an interesting value proposition is the limit to how much of it will exist," says McAlary. "Just like the laws of nature dictate how much gold exists on Earth, the algorithm determines scarcity with bitcoin. This isn’t like paper money where you can just go and print more."

To be fair, so far most of the current investors in bitcoin are digital currency enthusiasts, technology geeks, and international finance gurus who like the idea of transferring money independent of the U.S. banking system, which has a knack for nickel-and-diming everyone with fees. But this demographic is changing.

 

Antonis Polemitis, manging partner at Ledra Capital, a venture capital firm that has invested in a number of bitcoin projects, says that as more and more people hear about bitcoin, the user base will growing to incorporate more mainstream customers.

"Remember, in the 1990s, the Internet was not that big of a deal," he says. "People needed to get comfortable with the concept. We needed AOL to bring it to the general public. It took time. Bitcoin is at the same stage right now. None of this is going to happen overnight. The next few years are all about making the on-ramps simpler."

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

This potential customer base—and, of course, the potential value of the currency—are the two things that attracted McAlary into the market years ago.

At first, his interest was as a miner. With a little financial help from a friend, McAlary started with a mining "rig" (in other words, a super-fancy computer set-up) in his garage. During this time, McAlary divided his days evenly between mining for bitcoin and playing high-stakes poker in cash games at Wynn Las Vegas and online, at Full Tilt Poker, a now-defunct online poker site.

When the federal government canned online poker for good on April 15, 2011, McAlary transitioned into bitcoin full-time, mining and trading on his own, and teaming with Pomona College roommate and Las Vegas native Joshua Schlachter to launch Coin Cloud.

After the duo invested about $200,000 of their own money in the company, McAlary and Schlachter unveiled Coin Cloud’s first ATM in late July 2014.

The inaugural ATM was released in partnership with Robocoin, a company that specializes in bitcoin kiosks. The machine allows users both to buy and sell bitcoin, meaning they can either convert bitcoin into cash or use cash to purchase or invest in bitcoin on the spot. Unlike traditional ATMs, which require a banking card and a password to authenticate users, the Robocoin machine adds a second factor of authentication—in this case, a palm scan.

 

Bitcoin is the only option right now where you keep 100% control of your own money at all times.

According to McAlary, this allows bitcoin users to secure their accounts with biometrics, much the same way iPhone users can lock devices with their thumbprints.

Technically, the concept of a bitcoin ATM in Las Vegas already has been proven. In 2013, after $22 million in renovations to The D Las Vegas Casino Hotel downtown, owner Derek Stevens became the first Sin City hotelier to take a flier on the cryptocurrency, and installed a Robocoin bitcoin ATM in the middle of the action on his casino floor.

Stevens, who also serves as CEO of the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino, says that this machine saw peak traffic during the 2014 World Series of Poker, when poker pros used it to sell bitcoin and withdraw cash they then brought with them to pay four- and five-figure tournament entry fees.

"When you have hotel casino business, you spend a lot of money trying to figure out how to get people into your property," he says. "For us, this has proven to be a differentiator."

(Stevens declines to specify how much money goes in and out of his bitcoin ATM daily, but says it has "exceeded expectations for success.")

THE BIG GAMBLE

Considering this success, technology experts say the Vegas market is primed for a bitcoin binge, and note ATMs are the best vehicle for that expansion, since everyone in Vegas needs cash.

As a tourist destination, Sin City attracted nearly 40 million visitors overall in 2013, filling more hotel rooms per night on average than any other destination in North America. Polemitis notes that many of the people who visit Las Vegas come from far away, meaning that those who experience bitcoin ATMs during their trip to are that much more likely to bring awareness of the concept back home with them.

 

Another issue: Withdrawal limits. Most traditional casino ATMs will allow users to withdraw up to $1,500 two or three times in a 24-hour period, but lock out users after that. Most bitcoin ATMs, on the other hand, have no such restrictions.

"Because it’s all decentralized, you can use these machines to buy or sell bitcoin as often as you’d like," says Marco Garibaldi, who is the brains (and the code) behind Bitcard, a digital wallet that looks like a debit card. "Bitcoin is the only option right now where you keep 100% control of your own money at all times."

There are other reasons why bitcoin and Vegas make a good match:

  • Users do not need a bank or ATM card to access their bitcoin at a bitcoin ATM.
  • Traditional ATMs charge fees for withdrawals; bitcoin ATMs only charge fees when users convert bitcoin to U.S. dollars (and vice versa).
  • Multi-factor authentication all but eliminates the risk of fraud.

Gamblers certainly have embraced bitcoin so far. Statistics from the blockchain indicate that earlier this year, gamblers wagered the equivalent of $20 million dollars in bitcoins on SatoshiBet, an online bitcoin casino. What’s more, at a time when traditional online poker sites have been struggling, SealswithClubs.com, an online poker site that runs on bitcoin, is booming. (The site is owned by poker player and long-time bitcoin advocate, Bryan Micon.)

Mike Masnick, CEO of Floor64, a marketing consulting company in Sunnyvale, California, says that where bitcoin could get even more interesting is in the ability to program bets directly. Say you're betting on a certain team to beat the spread; you could program that directly into the bitcoin itself, such that if you win your bet, the bitcoin automatically becomes yours.

"You would no longer have to worry about payouts, as all of that could happen automatically based on the results of the game," Masnick says, noting that because the block chain is public, the protocol also could help cut down on illicit gambling. "It could have a huge impact."

One online bitcoin gambling site, BitBet.com, already has incorporated this technology. Others are expected to follow suit in the next few months.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

The success of bitcoin in Vegas, like the currency itself, is just beginning, and McAlary’s company is in its infancy. If Coin Cloud fails or if bitcoin is supplanted by another type of cryptocurrency, at least from the perspective of dollars and cents, McAlary would be broke.

Still, McAlary is undaunted. He plans to unveil another bitcoin ATM in Vegas for the upcoming Life is Beautiful music and food festival in October, and add more machines in Las Vegas and other cities (including Houston) before the end of the year. He also has partnered with Garibaldi, the man behind Bitcard, to develop ATMs for Native-American casinos across the country.

If these investments in bitcoin come up empty, McAlary says he simply will head back to the poker rooms and build his bankroll anew. On a more fundamental level, McAlary maintains that bitcoin is a game-changer because of its role as a payment processing system—an approach that eventually could wipe out the hugely profitable business of credit card providers all together.

Polemitis, the VC, agrees, noting that the first time he transferred $20 to a colleague using bitcoin reminded him of the first time he sent an e-mail, in that both took seconds. He sees bitcoin as less of a cash substitute and more of a protocol to speed transactions across any number of platforms—"the most ardent proponents of this could say it is as big of an idea as http or the web itself."

To this end, Masnick notes that bitcoin ultimately could enables customers to do things with finances they never have been able to do before.

"Imagine giving your kids an allowance that can only be spent on certain things that are programmed into the money itself," he says. Ironically, one of his dream uses for Bitcoin is "giving an addicted gambler money that can't be spent in a casino."