Baton Rouge just got its first Bitcoin ATM – Baton Rouge Business …

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Baton Rouge’s first ATM for Bitcoin brings a tangible interchange for users of the decentralized, digital currency. But it remains unclear how much of a market exists for Bitcoin in the Baton Rouge area.

Earlier this month, Will Haynie, a New Orleans day trader who operates Bitcoin ATMs with his brother, installed a Genesis Coin ATM machine at American Market, a grocery store at 5251 Nicholson Dr.

Haynie has other such machines in New Orleans and has plans for one more in either Shreveport or Baton Rouge in the near future. The machines allow for a one-directional transaction, where users can purchase Bitcoin for cash but not receive cash for their Bitcoin.

Quantifying the Bitcoin market locally is challenging. Haynie says his ATMs have had solid traffic so far, but declined to provide specific numbers. The currency is geared toward younger people, Haynie says, noting the ATM is near the LSU campus. Hayne collects an 8% fee on transactions.

Users don’t need ATM machines to buy Bitcoin. They can already purchase the currency by getting an online account on a large exchange, but Haynie says the ATMs streamline the process. Users must set up a digital wallet and go through either an SMS verification or have their driver’s license scanned, depending on the size of the transaction. Then, users insert cash and get Bitcoin.

“It’s internet cash,” Hayne says. “Anything you can pay for online, you can pay for with Bitcoin … a lot of big companies are accepting it.”

Currently, one Bitcoin is worth around $1,065, and users can buy a fraction of a single Bitcoin. The digital currency has no authority and is not run by any bank. Bitcoin has gained worldwide exposure over the last several years, and several Baton Rouge companies have since announced they would begin accepting the currency.

Bryan Jeansonne, a local real estate lawyer, announced in early 2014 he would begin accepting the currency, and a handful of other businesses followed suit. The Republican Party of Louisiana even began accepting Bitcoin donations.

Jeansonne says he had hoped to attract people from other countries where currencies can be unstable, and the low fees made the currency appealing.
“We do still accept it,” he says. “But no one has ever used it.”

Grant Bourque, a local software engineer, first got Bitcoin several years ago, and is now involved with a Facebook page for local Bitcoin users. He says the technology behind the currency drew him to Bitcoin. Though he mostly saves his Bitcoins, he uses some to buy things like presents, ebooks, games, shirts and the like. A few years ago, Bourque went to a Bitcoin conference and paid for his tickets with the currency.

“I appreciate the creativity that went into creating a global digital cash system that no single entity controls,” Bourque says in an email. “I think it is a cheaper and more secure way to send money to anyone over the internet.”

—Sam Karlin

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