Thousands of Crypto-ATMs Promised For Inflationary Argentina, No Delivery As Yet

More than a hundred bitcoin ATMs, which were supposed to soon be available in economically beleaguered Argentina, are nowhere in sight according to a report by TheNextWeb’s Hard Fork.

Both crypto and mainstream financial news outlets reported in October that Odyssey Group, a “dynamic retail banking support organization operating from South Florida,” were on the cusp of deploying 150 cryptocurrency-capable (mostly bitcoin) ATMs in Argentina, with a further 1,600 units installed by an Odyssey subsidiary, Octagon, to come within a year’s time.

This measure had been marketed in the context of the dire economic situation in the country, with the Economist speculating that a recession might now be “inevitable" resulting from a selloff in Argentine bonds in favor of newly profitable US bonds, among other reasons. Inflation in the country has become an alarming issue, with the Argentine Peso’s value dropping over 50% against the US dollar during 2018.

Bitcoin has oftened seem an attractive asset in such situations. In this vein, CryptoGlobe recently reported on record high transaction volume on LocalBitcoins in Argentina (and Egypt and Venezuela). LocalBitcoins is a peer-to-peer over-the-counter trading platform for bitcoin.

Argentine Peso / US Dollar(Argentine peso / US dollar; source: tradingview.com)

No Product

Hard Fork have noted that approaching the end of the year, there seem to be nowhere near 150 crypto-capable ATMs in Argentina; in fact, the crypto-ATM tracking website coinatmradar.com shows only four crypto ATMs in the entire country, all located in Buenos Aires, and all operated by a company called Athena Bitcoin. Although this resource is not exhaustive, there is no obvious reason why a company would not make use of effectively free advertisement by listing its ATM locations there.

The dearth of actual products on the ground grates against claims the company had made in May of 2018, that they were planning to install 4,000 more in the short term, and finally 30,000 in the long term - claims that Odyssey seem to have backpedalled on, given the more recent 1,600 unit target. Many news outlets had also reported at the time that 200 units had already been installed in Argentina, although an official statement in this regard could not be found.

When reached for comment on the delay, Odyssey’s CEO Sebastian Ponceliz told Hard Fork:

The expected start date of the hybrid ATMs in Argentina was postponed with the purpose of adjusting all the legal and technical requirements demanded by the Central Bank of the Argentine Republic and the financial and system partners of the local market.

Sebastian Ponceliz

The country’s central bank, earlier this year, issued a liberalization on ATM regulation in the country, allowing non-financial entities - non-banks - to install physical units. Concurrent with this action, Ponceliz was at the time widely reported to have claimed “pre-agreements,” presumably with Argentina’s central bank, to install the initial 4,000 units.