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The Decline of Crypto ATMs in the UK: A Setback for London’s Crypto Hub Aspirations

Since the British regulator initiated a crackdown on crypto ATMs in March 2022, the number of Bitcoin ATMs in the UK has drastically dwindled. In fact, according to Coin ATM Radar data, there are currently only ten crypto ATMs available in the entire country, all concentrated in England, with none in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland.

The decline in crypto ATMs is primarily due to compliance issues with existing regulations, particularly anti-money laundering requirements that mandate Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures. Previously, there were 80 crypto ATMs in the UK, meaning that over 88% of these machines have been shut down in just over a year. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) had warned operators to cease operations or face enforcement action.

The FCA has been actively involved in the closure of these ATMs, conducting 34 inspections, resulting in the closure of 26 ATMs. In one instance, a user in Sheffield paid £1,000 to a machine that failed to provide any cryptocurrency in return. The inspections took place in 2023, and it is possible that more inspections will follow.

Coin ATM Radar relies on voluntary data provided by ATM operators, so it is theoretically possible that some operators have removed their information without necessarily shutting down the machines. However, according to Steve Smart, the FCA’s joint executive director of enforcement and markets supervision, the remaining active crypto ATMs in the UK are operating illegally, posing a risk to users who may unwittingly hand over their money to criminals.

The FCA has demanded the shutdown of all crypto ATMs in Britain by October, including the ten that are still operational. Additionally, out of the 34 inspections conducted in 2023, 18 occurred in the past two months, indicating that further closures may be imminent. Consequently, the future of crypto ATMs in the UK appears uncertain, and it is possible that they may disappear entirely.

Currently, there are around 40 crypto companies in the UK authorized to offer ATM services, but none of them have authorization to provide crypto ATM services. While the situation could change if the UK enacts new specific cryptocurrency laws, this remains a more theoretical than realistic scenario at present. These developments are in contrast to the ambitions of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who aims to position London as a global crypto hub.

In comparison to other European countries, the UK’s crypto ATM market is significantly smaller. Switzerland, for example, boasts 146 crypto ATMs with a population eight times smaller than that of the UK. London, in particular, lags behind cities like Lugano, which has 18 crypto ATMs despite its much smaller population. France has 16 crypto ATMs, while Spain leads with 285. Poland stands out with 256 active installations, indicating that the UK is currently not a prominent crypto hub.

It should be noted that the figures presented are not comprehensive but are based on declarations made to Coin ATM Radar. With many countries vying to become thriving crypto hubs, such as El Salvador and Dubai, the UK’s approach seems to be primarily theoretical, as the country appears to be moving in the opposite direction in practical terms.

 

Crypto products and NFTs are unregulated and can be highly risky. There may be no regulatory recourse for any loss from such transactions. Crypto is not a legal tender and is subject to market risks. Readers are advised to seek expert advice and read offer document(s) along with related important literature on the subject carefully before making any kind of investment whatsoever. Crypto market predictions are speculative and any investment made shall be at the sole cost and risk of the readers.