If you read the crypto press, you’ll find story after story this week about how the number of new bitcoin ATMs crashed this year, with just one-sixth as many installed in April as in December.
The thing is, they haven’t. Or at least, those stories — which point to less than 300 installed last month compared to 1,970 in December, and a steady decline between — rely on data counting just crypto-only ATMs, which doesn’t accurately reflect the actual availability of crypto-capable ATMs in the United States.
If you look at the actual number of ATMs, kiosks and service providers that offer physical cryptocurrency transactions, you’ll find it’s growing rapidly.
On April 6, Coinme said that its cash-to-bitcoin network, which has partnered with MoneyGram and coin-counting kiosk operator Coinstar, grew 185% in the past 12 months and now reaches 21,000 locations — making 90% of the U.S. population within five miles of Coinme bitcoin-capable ATM.
Users can buy up to $2,900 in bitcoin using cash, and the company now offers services in 49 states, with New York’s tougher-than-the-rest crypto regulations still blocking growth.
In January, MoneyGram invested in Coinme, buying about 4% of the company, according to a release. There are almost 7,400 MoneyGram locations with crypto capability, according to Coinme’s website.
Read more: MoneyGram Buys Minority Stake in Coinme
“Since the pandemic, we’ve seen demand for our services increase as Americans become aware of crypto as a store of value and effective payment rail,” Neil Bergquist, CEO and co-founder of Coinme, said in a press release. “We’ve solved the access problem with our cash-to-crypto network that is now larger than many of the largest bank ATM networks.”
Yet according to Coin ATM Radar, whose numbers are the source of those stories, Coinme has zero locations — which is true, as they don’t use have their own physical ATMs, which is what the statistic is actually counting.
Nor does it count Bitcoin Depot, which said it had 6,500 crypto ATMs in the U.S. and Canada, including at Circle K supermarkets, at the beginning of the year.
“The crypto ATM industry continues to grow at a rapid pace with estimates that the market will hit $3.55 billion by 2030,” said Brandon Mintz, president and CEO at Bitcoin Depot. “We’re definitely seeing that usage and continued growth in our business with tremendous expansion throughout 2021.”
From MoneyGram’s perspective, buying and selling bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies at physical location, rather than online through a cryptocurrency exchange or payments app like PayPal and Venmo, is a growth industry.
“Our investment in Coinme further strengthens our partnership and compliments our shared vision to expand access to digital assets and cryptocurrencies,” said Alex Holmes, MoneyGram Chairman and CEO. “Our unique cash-to-bitcoin offering with Coinme, announced in May of 2021, opened our business to an entirely new customer segment, and we couldn’t be more pleased with our progress.”
Nor is crypto ATM interest growing only in the U.S. El Salvador installed more than 200 as part of its adoption of bitcoin as a legal tender, and in Mexico, bitcoin ATM manufacturer ChainBytes and operator Axolotl Bitcoin installed a kiosk in the country’s Senate building with the help of a crypto-friendly legislator.
Still, all that doesn’t change the shrinking number of new Bitcoin ATMs that Coin ATM Radar did show. The company said earlier this year that physical crypto ATM growth “practically flatlined” in Europe following the European Union’s fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (5AMLD).
The U.K. recently went in the same direction, with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) ordering all crypto ATM operators to shut down in March. That followed a strict advertising crackdown that ordered the removal of virtually any ad for cryptocurrencies, encompassing firms ranging from publicly traded exchanges such as Coinbase to Papa John’s International.
And in the U.S., the General Accounting Office called for the IRS and Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to require operators to keep law enforcement up to date on bitcoin ATM locations.
In addition, the newly-formed Cryptocurrency Compliance Cooperative is advocating for tougher standards, claiming that more than 10,000 crypto ATMs do not require anti-money laundering checks.