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The first of its kind in Houston, Texas, the George R. Brown (GRB) Convention Center installed a CoinVault ATM on Dec. 10. One of 260 such ATMs worldwide, the machine recognizes and accepts the bitcoin, a form of decentralized virtual currency, according to the U.S. Treasury.

First introduced in 2008 as an online payment system based on cryptography, its popularity has moved into the business realm, including visitors to George R. Brown Convention Center.

GRB manager Houston First Corporation, a quasi-public organization, wanted to initiate the trend.

“Houston First always wants to be the first in offering amenities to its attendees and guests,” explained Mark Goldberg, assistant general counsel, Houston First Corp. “With us now having this ATM machine … we’ve proven that we’re on the cutting edge of technology.”

Located next to a Starbucks on the second floor of the Convention Center, the machine will operate as any other ATM with the additional capability of converting cash into bitcoin and dispensing bitcoin as cash.

It is also able to exchange bitcoin from overseas visitors into U.S. dollars, which may help attract international business.

“The George R. Brown is enormously proud to be an early adopter in this important new global technology, leading the way for other conventions centers throughout the world,” said Dawn Ullrich, president and CEO, Houston First Corp. “We are not doing this as a money-maker; this is revenue neutral. We view this as an amenity for convention-goers visiting the GRB.”

A 5 percent fee is charged based on the real-time market rate for the digital currency. Users with accounts may be alerted via text prior to completing a transaction in order to ensure its security.

As a city, Houston prides itself in being forward-thinking. The Texan town is already home to Texas Bitcoin Embassy, located close to the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston. Going as far as establishing a memorandum on the validity of the virtual currency, the Texas Department of Banking published the Treatment of Virtual Currencies, noting the types of businesses that may require a license for bitcoin-related transactions.

“We see that the convention center visitors are going to be demanding more and more of this type of digital currency,” Goldberg added. “And we have already received serious consideration from cryptocurrency conferences to locate some of their conventions in our facility.”

A large number of bitcoin conferences around the globe indicate growing support for the virtual currency. Upcoming events for 2015 include The North American Bitcoin Conference, to be held Jan. 16 in Miami Beach, Fla.; Texas Bitcoin Conference, to be held on March 28 in Austin; and several dates and location for Inside Bitcoins including Seoul, Singapore, Berlin, New York and Las Vegas.


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