The 23 Bitcoin automated-teller machines in Detroit are installed in places like the Big V Party Store on the northwest side. Signs outside the Big V prominently advertise its goods and services: check-cashing, money orders, liquor, Lotto tickets — and since last year, an ATM dedicated to the so-called future of money.
All the Bitcoin ATMs in Detroit are in low-income areas, and they represent uncharted ground for this new currency that exists only in cyberspace. Advocates say the machines merely fill a financial void in neighborhoods that banks and traditional lending institutions largely ignore. Security analysts and law-enforcement officials say they are tools for small-time money-laundering.
“The truth is, it could be both scenarios,” said Yaya Fanusie, a former economic and counter-terrorism analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency. He now studies the impact of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.