Since the British regulator launched a full-fledged war on crypto ATMs in the UK in March 2022, the vast majority of ATMs in which to buy and sell Bitcoin in Britain have disappeared.
In fact, according to data published on Coin ATM Radar, as of today there are only ten crypto ATMs available in the entire UK, all concentrated in England. None are in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Moreover, seven of these are in or around London, with only one in Manchester, one in Birmingham, and one in Nottingham.
The problem is related to compliance with current regulations, particularly on anti-money laundering regulations that require mandatory KYC.
Previously there were 80, so in just over a year more than 88% of crypto ATMs in the UK have been closed. Then again, the FCA at the time had intimated the operators to shut down their machines, otherwise they would face enforcement action.
FCA’s intervention on Bitcoin ATMs
Of these 70 disappeared ATMs, 26 were shut down by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) itself with 34 inspections.
Even in one case, in Sheffield, a user was found to have paid £1,000 to one of these machines, which, however, gave him nothing in return.
The 34 inspections took place in 2023, and at this point it is even to be expected that there may be more.
In fact, the data collected by Coin ATM Radar is provided voluntarily by the operators of the machines, so it is also theoretically possible that someone decided to remove the information from the website without necessarily shutting down the machines.
According to the FCA’s joint executive director of enforcement and markets supervision, Steve Smart, crypto ATMs in the UK that are still active are operating illegally, with the risk that those using them are in fact handing over their money to criminals.
Smart also added that if something goes wrong one can lose money.
The future evolution of Bitcoin ATMs
The FCA is demanding that in fact all crypto ATMs in Britain be shut down by October, so even the 10 that are still active are expected to be decommissioned soon.
What’s more, of the 34 inspections carried out in 2023, 18 occurred in the last two months, so it is really hard to imagine that they could stop there.
In other words, in the near future there may be no more crypto ATMs in the UK.
The fact is that there appear to be as many as 40 crypto companies in the UK authorized to offer ATM services, but none that are authorized to provide crypto ATM services.
However, it cannot be ruled out that later on, if the country were to have new specific laws regarding cryptocurrencies, the situation could change, but as of today this is a more theoretical than realistic scenario.
Surely all of this plays very much against the goal of the new premier Rishi Sunak of making London a global crypto hub.
Therefore, things could actually change in the future, not least because the new UK crypto regulation does not specify in concrete terms how one should behave, but merely assigns the various government authorities the task of regulating this market.
Thus in theory there could be room for some innovation, that is, some more open attitude.
The situation abroad
The real European crypto hub is Switzerland, which has eight times fewer inhabitants than the UK but still 146 crypto ATMs.
According to this data, the differences with London would be abysmal. Indeed, at this point it does not appear at all that London is able to compete with, for example, Lugano as a European crypto hub.
There are as many as 18 crypto ATMs in Lugano, or two and a half times those in London, against a population even 140 times smaller.
In France, on the other hand, there are only 16, which is in line with current British numbers, while in Spain for instance there are 285.
Poland stands out in particular, with 256 active installations, which seems to show how in fact the UK is not at all a crypto hub at present.
Even in Romania there are definitely more than 100, while there are few in Portugal or Estonia.
It should always be remembered that these are not accurate and complete figures, but only those that have been declared to Coin ATM Radar.
With a growing interest of many countries to become full-fledged crypto hubs, such as El Salvador and Dubai for instance, Britain’s attitude seems to be only theoretical, because in practical terms it seems that the country is doing everything to achieve the exact opposite.