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Robocoin’s Bitcoin Teller Machine Won't Need Hong Kong Approval

Robocoin Technologies, the company that opened the world’s first Bitcoin automated teller machine, won’t need regulatory approval from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority to provide the machines in the Chinese city.

An ATM for the virtual currency may be ready in Hong Kong by the end of this month, the South China Morning Post reported yesterday, citing Robocoin Chief Executive Jordan Kelley.

“It appears that the proposed machine is another channel for acquiring Bitcoin or a vending machine,” the regulator said in an e-mail reply, noting that there is limited information available. “Bitcoin is not regulated by the HKMA. Bitcoin is not a currency but a virtual commodity.”

Robocoin opened the first Bitcoin ATM in Vancouver in October, allowing users to exchange cash for Bitcoins or vice versa, according to the company’s website. Zynga Inc. became the latest merchant to accept Bitcoins, testing it as a virtual currency for some of its online games.

Hong Kong’s laws imposes punishment on the illegal act of theft, fraud and money laundering involving Bitcoin, the HKMA said. The regulator said Bitcoin doesn’t have any backing and doesn’t meet the criteria of a means of payment or an electronic currency.

Taiwan Regulator

Taiwan’s Financial Supervisory Commission won’t allow Bitcoin ATMs on the island, Tseng Ming-Chung, minister at the commission, said in Taipei today. Bitcoin isn’t a real currency and is a highly speculative virtual product, Taiwan’s central bank and FSC said in a joint statement on Dec. 30.

Robocoin may seek to have such machines in Taiwan, TechCrunch.com reported Friday, without citing anybody.

Hong Kong Monetary Authority said it is monitoring Bitcoin’s usage and regulatory developments elsewhere to consider the need for follow-up action.

Introduced five years ago by a programmer or group of programmers going under the name of Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoins exist as software and can potentially reduce banking transaction fees, making it an attractive option for trading via the Web or in stores. Bitcoins are being used to pay for everything from Gummi bears and digital cameras to Tesla electric cars on the Web, with more than 12 million in circulation.

To contact the reporter on this story: Simon Lee in Hong Kong at slee936@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hwee Ann Tan at hatan@bloomberg.net

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