New Branch Promotion Turns ATMs Into No-Lose Slot Machines

How can you spice up a routine visit to the ATM? Easthampton Savings Bank in Massachusetts is promoting a new branch by turning its ATM into a sort of no-lose slot machine. They call it the “ATM Gone Mad,” because sometimes it will dispense $50 bills in place of the normal $20 bills. Cute promo. One local blogger finds it amusing that this is going on around the same time that the nearby city of Springfield is considering a downtown casino proposal from MGM Grand. All of the fun of gambling, none of the risk of financial ruin. But what’s the fun if there’s no chance of destroying your family’s future?

This reminds us, just a little bit, of the prize-linked savings accounts available in some countries. They’re illegal in most of the United States, but here’s how they work: you put money in a savings account, and instead of (or in addition to) a puny interest rate, you get the chance to win a large cash prize. Really large: the first winner in Michigan’s “Save to Win” program was a member of the Greatest Generation who won $100,000.

It’s not do-gooders fretting about the combination of banking and gambling that have kept prize-linked savings away from consumers. It’s government-run lotteries. In South Africa, the national lottery actually got a popular savings program shut down.

Zero-Risk ATM Winnings: Are they Training Wheels for Slots? [Wig & Pen]
MGM unveils downtown Springfield casino proposal [MassLive]
Could a Lottery Be the Answer to America’s Poor Savings Rate? [Freakonomics]
Making Savers Winners: An Overview of Prize-Linked Savings Products [National Bureau of Economic Research]