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Nation & World

Minnesota becomes first state to sell lottery tickets at gas pumps, ATMs

(MCT) — MINNEAPOLIS — Lottery jackpots are growing bigger more quickly, and ticket sales are soaring all over the country. Now Minnesota is the first state to make buying tickets even faster, at gas pumps and ATMs.

With a debit card, driver’s license and cellphone number, buyers can try their luck at a touch screen. The system is being piloted at nine gas stations and 19 ATMs in the Twin Cities, allowing people to buy quick-pick Powerball and Mega Millions tickets without going inside to a counter. Since October, about $5,260 worth of Powerball tickets have been sold that way.

“People are always in a hurry nowadays,” said Minnesota Lottery Executive Director Ed Van Petten. “The thought is it takes 10 to 15 seconds to go through the process, and I think people would say, ‘Why not. I’ll give it a shot.’”

Andrew Anderson, who works at the BP station at Calhoun Beach in Minneapolis, said in the days leading up to Wednesday’s $550 million drawing, many patrons avoided convenience store counters.

“A lot of people just want to pay at the pump now,” Anderson said.

Joel Bard, a Minnesota State Lottery employee, was also at the BP station Wednesday, explaining the new technology to people as they pumped their gas.

“My job is to answer their questions and walk them through the process,” Bard said.

Lottery buyers insert their debit card into the slot used to pay for gasoline. They then select a prompt to buy tickets, choose how many, and after entering a cellphone number and other identification information, a ticket is dispensed with their numbers. A $1 fee is charged for each transaction, and the minimum is three Powerball or five Mega Millions tickets. A text message is also sent to a cellphone with a link to the numbers.

Bard said he approaches people who pay for gas without going inside the convenience store. They are the target audience for this kind of technology.

The convenient way of buying a lottery ticket arrives when sales in Minnesota are already at an all-time high. Sales for the 2012 fiscal year, which ended June 30, topped $520 million, an increase of $15.6 million from the previous year.

Minnesota was one of at least two dozen states to post record sales over the past year.

For Wednesday’s big $550 million Powerball jackpot, 130,000 tickets a minute were being sold nationally — about six times the volume a week ago.

The large jackpots often cause sales to skyrocket, which means higher revenue for participating states.

The new technology in Minnesota might also boost revenue, but not without concern.

Van Petten said the easy access has some worried about gambling addiction and underage gambling, but he said the State Lottery has worked to address that.

At the nine participating gas stations, lottery employees, including Bard, are checking driver’s licenses at the pump. Eventually, lottery players will have to scan their licenses, but the software is only capable at the ATMs for now, Van Petten said.

The software has other limitations, such as a 24-hour delay when buying tickets at the pump or ATMs. Hopeful jackpot winners purchasing tickets Wednesday for that night’s Powerball drawing had to use the convenience store counter.

Andrea Davis, 23, of Minneapolis, was one of them. She only occasionally buys lottery tickets, but the new technology may change that.

“I’d be more apt to buy one if I don’t have to come inside,” she said. “I usually pay with my debit card at the pump.”

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