Hong Kong is about to get a rather unusual shop: an offline bitcoin store, launched by the Asia Nexgen Bitcoin Exchange (ANXBTC).
A 400-square-foot premises seems an unusual setting for the world of digital currency, but ANXBTC believes the move makes a lot of sense.
The exchange’s CEO Lo Ken-bon told the South China Morning Post that the biggest problem faced by bitcoin lovers in Hong Kong is that they simply can’t get a hold of them:
“So far, people have to put money in and trade it through an online exchange. Now, you can walk into the store, hand over your cash, and send the bitcoins to your digital wallet.”
Jumping through hoops
In order to buy bitcoins in the new shop, buyers will have to verify their identity and state their address – this is necessary to meet local anti-money laundering regulations.
There is another regulatory issue: Hong Kong views digital currencies as virtual commodities rather than currencies.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority simply doesn’t want to deal with bitcoin, as it is not in its purview; therefore ANXBTC will have to operate the shop as a vending machine, with no exchange of money involved in its business.
That is to say, customers’ money will buy bitcoin the commodity, not bitcoin the currency.
This isn't news to anyone who has been following developments in Hong Kong: the first Robocoin ATMs coming to Hong Kong are classified as vending machines too.
Regulation on its way?
Hong Kong hasn’t yet taken any drastic measures on bitcoin. Regulatory action does not appear very likely at this point, but the machinery of government may be about to slowly grind into action.
Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise Department is reportedly considering which government body is supposed to be investigating possible bitcoin regulation, the South China Morning Post has reported.
Furthermore, Hong Kong regulators issued a bitcoin warning earlier this year, saying that they are closely monitoring developments with regards to digital currencies and are cooperating with regulators in mainland China and the rest of the region.
However, since the new bitcoin shop is set to open on Friday, February 28th, we can assume that ANXBTC is fairly certain it will be able to operate in spite of any regulatory ambiguity in the near future.