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Las Vegas: The Strip gets its first bitcoin ATM

A bitcoin ATM has opened on the Las Vegas Strip.

The Las Vegas Strip welcomed its first bitcoin ATM on Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean visitors will necessarily find it easy to use the virtual currency.

The new ATM launched inside the Viva Vegas souvenir shop near Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue, across the street from CityCenter. 

Chris McAlary of Coin Cloud, the company that operates the Robocoin  machine, said its most practical purpose will be to fund the vacations of visitors from countries such as China, which has strict currency controls.

“It’s very difficult for the average Chinese person to transfer money out of China,” he told me. “You can store your money on the cloud and then withdraw it on demand from our machine.”

Promoters of bitcoin often boast of its ability to replace cash. Users who deposit money into an online account can pay for purchases by scanning their smartphones at participating businesses.

There’s a hitch, though: Few places in Las Vegas accept bitcoin.

“I’m not aware of any on the Strip,” McAlary said.

The Bitcoins in Vegas website  lists a handful of businesses that accept the virtual currency. They include two downtown Las Vegas hotels, the D, which has a bitcoin ATM, and its sister property, the Golden Gate.

McAlary hopes for wider acceptance in coming years but said he’s not sure whether bitcoin will become a popular alternative to cash and credit cards.

“It just depends on whether or not, at the end of the day, consumers prefer that,” he said.

Vegas’ newest bitcoin ATM operates from 8 a.m. to midnight seven days a week. There’s free parking at the adjacent Travelodge at 3735 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

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