Argentina’s gamblers who travel outside the country are facing new limits on their ability to wager or purchase cryptocurrencies.
Last week, the Central Bank of the Argentine Republic (BCRA) issued a notice of new currency controls aimed at limiting credit, debit or prepaid card use for specific purposes while traveling abroad. Among the activities facing these restrictions are “participation in gambling and betting of different types.”
Financial institutions and other local card issuers were instructed that, as of November 1, they must receive the BCRA’s prior approval to access the foreign exchange market to make payments abroad. The BCRA has also imposed a new US$50 limit on cash advances for Argentinians who are travelling abroad.
In addition to gambling, the new rules also restrict fund transfers to accounts of payment service providers or international investment managers. Cryptocurrency purchases will also require prior approval.
The new restrictions are intended to arrest capital flight and preserve the government’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves. This summer, Argentina’s peso suffered a double-digit devaluation following primary elections that upended many incumbents in favor of local socialist candidates. The peso threatened to plunge further last month when left-leaning parties claimed victory in the presidential election.
Gambling was singled out for scrutiny due to what the BCRA refers to as ‘dollar casino mechanics,’ aka using a credit card to buy chips in an international casino and then cashing out those chips for hard currency that isn’t subject to the peso’s downward trajectory.
Argentina’s electoral upheaval has also called into question local efforts to legalize and license online gambling. Among the incumbents defeated in last month’s elections was María Eugenia Vidal, governor of the province of Buenos Aires, where plans were afoot to issue seven online gambling licenses.
The Buenos Aires licensing plans appeared to stall this summer as the political scene grew more uncertain. Unless Vidal acts before leaving office on December 10, the future of the online gambling licensing program will be in the hands of Axel Kicillof, whose views on the future of the province’s gaming sector remain unclear.