This week, the FCA — Financial Conduct Authority in the United Kingdom has intensified its efforts against unlawful Bitcoin ATMs by conducting inspections at various locations in East London suspicious of operating unregistered machines. The FCA revealed that it had collaborated with the UK Metropolitan Police to perform this investigation.

It intends to persist in detecting and hindering unregistered crypto ATM operations across the UK.

The FCA’s ongoing campaign against illicit ATM operators has taken a new turn with the recent East London inspections, which came after similar operations in Leeds earlier this year. The Leeds investigation was performed with the Investigation Unit and Digital Intelligence of West Yorkshire Police.

Meanwhile, the association of Bitcoin ATM manufacturers and operators in the UK has yet to release an official statement. Nevertheless, the move may have a short-term negative impact on General Bytes. Bytes is one of the top producers of Bitcoin ATMs worldwide, including the UK.

With a global BTC ATM market cap of 25.2%, General Bytes has the highest number of Bitcoin ATM installations globally. Kwik-Bit—a Bitcoin ATM company formerly operating in London, stated that its ATM had ceased operation and is no longer in service.

Per the FCA’s announcement in March 2022, all Bitcoin ATMs operating in the United Kingdom are unauthorized. “They are operating illegally since they have no operating license from the appropriate authorities.”

A Clear Warning Signal

The FCA’s Executive Director for Market and Enforcement Oversight — Mark Steward, declared that the recent crackdown on unregistered crypto businesses, including the action taken in Leeds last month, sends a clear note that the FCA will persist in uncovering and disrupting such entities in the UK.

In tandem with the cryptocurrency market boom of 2021, there was a notable surge in the popularity of Bitcoin ATMs. This led to over 2,000 of these machines being installed worldwide every month during the summer of that year.

However, the situation has since changed, with the number of Bitcoin ATMs decreasing significantly, as evidenced by the closure of 1,054 machines between February and March 2023. CoinATMRadar’s global data reveals that the EU region currently has 1,469 Bitcoin ATMs in operation, with only 18 being functional in the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, there are a staggering 32,164 BTC ATMs in the United States, constituting 86% of the worldwide total.