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Sunday, December 21, 2014 | Last updated: 5:04am

Bitcoin becoming more tangible



San Francisco, Tokyo, Singapore, London, Tucson — what do these cities have in common? They are some of the first cities to have Bitcoin ATMs, a new payment system that has the potential to change the way we handle finances. The first Bitcoin ATM in Arizona opened late July at Bookmans Entertainment Exchange on Ina Road.

Bitcoin is known as a crypto-currency. It has no physical form and instead exists entirely online as a virtual currency. If you have bitcoins, then you have a program on your computer known as a wallet. Each wallet has a unique address associated with it to send and receive bitcoins. Much like cash, transactions with Bitcoin are extremely fast, anonymous and permanent.

With Bitcoin, you can buy furniture from Overstock.com, computers from Dell, satellite TV from Dish Network, flowers from 1-800-Flowers.com or a flight from airBaltic. Local Tucson businesses are accepting Bitcoin as well. Chaffin’s Diner on Broadway Boulevard will serve you a delicious breakfast in exchange for Bitcoin and you can grab a quick coffee downtown at Cartel Coffee Lab and pay with Bitcoin. Very soon, Bookmans Entertainment Exchange will also accept Bitcoin.

“I’ve always liked to use the engine of Bookmans to see where the future goes and hopefully to help it along,” said Bob Oldfather, owner of Bookmans Entertainment Exchange.

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By Rebecca Marie Sasnett / Arizona Summer Wildcat
Bookmans on Ina Road is the first location in Arizona to start accepting Bitcoin, an online crypto-currency. Bitcoin is a new way of purchasing items online.

Until recently, Bitcoin was very difficult for the average Tucson resident to get a hold of. One avenue was to purchase it online through an exchange, which can take weeks to verify banking information, just like day trading. Now you can walk into Bookmans on Ina Road and easily purchase some. In the near future, Tucson may be hosting even more of these ATMs.

“Eventually we’d like to add more ATMs at other locations,” said Brian Williams, owner of Javelin Investments, the company that owns and maintains the Bitcoin ATM.

Bitcoin offers great advantages over traditional payment systems. Like cash, giving bitcoins to someone is fast and anonymous, but Bitcoin takes that a step further. Sending twenty dollars to your friend for their birthday would normally take days and you risk it getting lost in the postal system. With Bitcoin, it arrives quickly and securely. It even crosses international borders. Sending money overseas is usually expensive due to high fees, but with Bitcoin you only need to pay a fraction of a cent to have your transaction verified.

“Every time I take a credit card there’s a charge, every time I deposit it in the bank, there’s a charge,” Oldfather said.

“Everyone’s got their hand out.”
With the opening of the Bitcoin ATM, businesses may be incentivized to start accepting Bitcoin in the future and Javelin Investments is there to help smooth the transition.

“These smaller places that are local to Tucson and have a younger following are prime candidates to accept it,” Williams said. “Lots of these places are already doing their transactions on a tablet or phone and we could set these people up to accept Bitcoin very quickly.”

There are hundreds of other crypto-currencies out their beyond Bitcoin that are making the world a better place. Dogecoin, a crypto-currency branded with a picture of a shiba inu from a popular Internet meme, has a strong community that has sponsored numerous charities. They even sponsored the Jamaica’s Olympic bobsled team and a Nascar.

“In the future we might take other crypto-currencies,” Oldfather said. “Maybe if the price of Darkcoin is shooting up we’ll give you a 5 percent discount if you pay with Darkcoin.”
With all of this innovation, many governments around the world have been relatively quiet about crypto-currencies. In May, the IRS released guidelines that classify crypto-currencies as property, which is a step closer towards wider adoption and use.

“I believe that these new disruptive technologies is maybe our chance to get our act together,” Oldfather said. “It’s the business people in my position that need to help people out.”


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