Mar 22, 2014, 7:25 am
A bill to turn off online sales of Minnesota Lottery tickets moved ahead Friday in the state Senate.
The bill, which would also do away with "play at the pump" lottery sales available at some gas stations, cleared the State and Local Government Committee and was headed to the Finance Committee.
The measure seeks to pull back the expansion of lottery offerings from "beyond what was intended," said Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, sponsor of the bill.
Skoe chairs the Senate Taxes Committee, and the bill is co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie.
Bakk has said he thinks it has enough support to pass the Senate.
The lottery has been offering lotto-style games on the Internet for more than three years. In early February, it started offering online scratch-off games, which have generated the backlash.
The difference, say critics of online gaming, is that the lotto-type games allow players to select numbers and then find out later through a drawing whether they've won, whereas the online scratch-off allows players to get instant results and to play continuously from their home computers or laptops, which increases the chances for addictive behavior.
And the new games are aimed at young people, critics complain.
They say the lottery should have sought legislative approval before expanding its online offerings.
But Minnesota State Lottery executive director Ed Van Petten has argued the 1989 law setting up the lottery authorized his agency to sell lottery tickets and to decide how that's to be done.
Skoe said that regardless of whether the state lottery had the authority, making Minnesota the only state to offer online scratch-off games goes beyond what's appropriate.
Van Petten told committee members Friday that the online program comes with spending limits to deter addictive behavior and that it will boost business at brick-and-mortar retailers that sell lottery tickets. Halting an effort that's been underway only about six weeks "is acting very prematurely," he said. "It's just too early to tell at this point."
The Minnesota Lottery was established after voters passed a constitutional amendment in 1988 to set it up and dictate that at least 40 percent of net proceeds be deposited in a natural resources trust fund. It now generates more than $500 million per year in total revenue -- about 60 percent of which goes back via prizes. In fiscal year 2012, $124 million went to various state programs.