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Banks, states consider new opportunities with ATMs

ATMs offer several features.

ATMs offer a variety of services to consumers, no matter where they go. While the primary benefit is getting cash, these machines are getting more sophisticated in ways that benefit customers. Money and check deposits, especially those without an envelope, are a great example of these advances. Bill payments are another. Some are turning the machines into miniature branches with other features as well, such as suggestions for loans and mortgages. These features, combined with branding, can help customers have positive interactions with their banks, no matter where they go. Other features, while not ready for public consumption just yet, are also viable.

ATMs can print lotto tickets, but are customers ready?

One novel idea is linking ATMs to the state lottery. Instead of having to go to a convenience store or supermarket to get lottery tickets, a customer can head to an ATM and print them, using money from their bank account to pay. The state lotto gets the money directly through ACH payment processing, and that money goes directly to a state's general fund to pay for education and infrastructure.

Minnesota recently demonstrated the potential of such a service by providing it through the state lottery. As part of a gambling expansion plan in 2012, this feature was added to many ATMs across the state. It added to a total of $139 million in contributions to the state general fund. However, changing circumstances will soon bring an end to this program. In June 2015, the State Senate overwhelmingly voted to end the expansion with veto-proof majorities, despite objections from Gov. Mark Dayton. The Star Tribune indicated the cause of the about-face may have less to do with the concept itself and instead concerns political maneuverings between the Governor's office, the Minnesota State Lottery and the state legislature. Still, with only months to shutter operations, the practice will stop before the end of 2015.

The practical success of printing lottery tickets from ATMs demonstrates the machine's utility. The technology's flexibility makes it possible for ATMs to complete several functions for the sake of the customer. Banks should take the time to invest in ATMs, especially as consumers move away from the branch and utilize their phones and other services to perform personal banking. As a result, they can maintain a relationship with the bank without needing the physical presence of a branch.

10/21/2015