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MSP Airport Considers Gambling Expansion

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(credit: CBS) Esme Murphy
Esme Murphy, a reporter and Sunday morning anchor for WCCO-TV, h...
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP/WCCO) – The Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport is eyeing a major expansion of gambling with a plan to sell Minnesota Lottery tickets on about 2,500 electronic tablets installed in a concourse in the main terminal.

Airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said Monday that the plan airport officials are recommending could get a vote as early as next month by the Metropolitan Airports Commission. It was first reported by the Star Tribune.

The proposal came from OTG Management, a New York-based company that operates food and beverage concessions at the airport. The company already has about 2,500 iPads attached to tables throughout Concourse G at the main terminal. Travelers use those devices to order food and beverages, check flight times and browse the Internet, but Hogan said they can be easily adapted to sell Powerball and Mega Millions tickets along with electronic versions of scratch-off games.

The airports commission was to vote to approve the expansion at a recent meeting, but tabled it out of concern the expansion might bite into existing lottery sales at the airport. Currently, the nonprofit Airport Foundation operates a kiosk in the airport’s main shopping area that sells Powerball and Mega Millions tickets and scratch-off games; and about a dozen vending machines throughout the airport that sell scratch-off games.

Jana Vaughn is Executive Director of the Minneapolis Airport Foundation.

“It might have negative impact on our sales. It might boost our sales. We really don’t know,” Vaughn said.

The Airport Foundation supervises about 450 volunteers who man information desks and provide other assistance to travelers, and also operates arts and culture and beautification programs at the airport. Vaughn said the organization nets about $200,000 a year from its gambling operation.

Vaughn said she’s not opposed to the proposed expansion but said it’s possible it could drain profits from the existing lottery sales.

“I think it’s worth testing out,” she said.

Vaughn estimated about half of current lottery sales at the airport are purchases by people who work there.

Ed Van Petten, the director of the Minnesota Lottery, said more state lottery tickets are sold at the airport than at any other single site in the state.

“I think we’d mostly be reaching customers that otherwise would probably not be shopping at the vending machines or the kiosks,” Van Petten said. He said the technology used to sell the lottery tickets is the same as what’s used for ticket purchases at gas pumps and ATMs.

Proceeds from the new lottery sales would be divided several ways, with about 5 percent for OTG and another firm involved with the technology; about 10 percent for the airport; and the rest for the Minnesota Lottery. Hogan said that division is not final.

Representatives of OTG Management did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport has been upping its gambling options. Last year, the airport added electronic pull-tab machines at six of its bars after those games were authorized as a means of helping fund construction of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium. As has been the case with many sites where those new games were offered, they have not been a big hit at the airport, where they generated $8,000 in profits last year.

“They’re not producing massive sales,” Hogan said. “It’s not a big moneymaker but it may pick up over time.”

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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