Singapore is now home to two of Asia's first bitcoin ATMs, which will allow users to feed in Singapore dollars and buy the virtual currency.
One made-in-Singapore ATM was launched yesterday at a bar called The Spiffy Dapper in Boat Quay, while another, imported from the British Virgin Islands, will be launched today at Citylink Mall.
The machines aim to make it easier for bitcoin buyers here, who up to now have had to wire money to a foreign exchange to buy bitcoins and wait at least a day for the transaction to be completed.
The Singapore ATMs are believed to be among the world's first in operation for bitcoins, following similar machines in Canada and the United States. Many more ATMs are planned this year, including in Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and London.
Bitcoin has become one of the world's most popular virtual currencies since its launch in 2008. Bitcoins are encrypted, not backed by any single company or government, and can be transferred directly between users without the need for a third party.
But the fledgling currency also faces risks. On Tuesday, a Japan-based exchange abruptly shut down amid concerns about possible theft. Users who had stored their bitcoins on the exchange, Mt Gox, were left unable to access their money.
This resulted in the value of bitcoin falling more than US$100 (S$126) on Tuesday. One bitcoin was worth about US$570 as of last night, well down from its peak of over US$1,000.
Japanese regulators said yesterday they would look into the closure of Mt Gox, but added that any regulation of bitcoin should involve international cooperation, according to a report by Reuters.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam recently noted that "there is currently no international consensus on the regulatory treatment of virtual currencies".
"MAS will closely monitor how widely virtual currencies are used in Singapore, the risks they pose, and international developments, and will consider the need to introduce regulations where appropriate," he said in reply to a parliamentary question last week.
In response to queries by The Straits Times yesterday, the MAS reiterated that it "does not regulate bitcoin, including its purchase, sale or use, whether online or via other means such as physical vending machines".
However, transactions involving bitcoins may be taxed by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, mainly for goods and services tax (GST).
The Boat Quay ATM was produced and set up by local firm Tembusu Terminals, a joint venture between cryptocurrency research and consultancy firm Estates General and software and hardware development studio Red Steed Studios.
Tembusu Terminals and Estates General are owned by two Singaporean consultants - Jarrod Luo, 29, and Peter Peh, 25 - and enterpreneur Andras Kristof, a permanent resident. Their ATMs, which are available for sale, incorporate security measures such as ID and thumbprint scanning.
The ATM at Citylink is owned by another Singapore company, Bitcoin Exchange. Its director Zann Kwan told The Straits Times that the company plans to launch more bitcoin ATMs in the region.
Mr David Moskowitz, the Singapore-based founder of bitcoin broker and consultancy Coin Republic, said he welcomes the ATMs as they will help generate awareness about bitcoin.
"I think it will be great for the community as people can just walk up to the machine, insert their money and get some bitcoins," he said at the launch of the Tembusu ATM yesterday.