Minn. Lawmakers Not Happy With MN Lottery Online Expansion

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — If you play the Minnesota Lottery online, listen up: the Legislature may be preparing to shut down the game. A bill to end online gambling got the OK from the Minnesota House Commerce Committee Thursday.

The online games are causing a backlash at the Capitol, where lawmakers say the Lottery may have overstepped its bounds.

“This is not the online lottery. This is online crack,” Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, said. “This is addictive, and this is going to destroy families.”

The Minnesota Lottery is aggressively marketing to a new audience: younger, tech savvy players.

It started offering online ticket sales several years ago. Now, it’s testing monitoring sales in vending machines, gas pumps, ATMs and mobile devices: raising fears by critics of too easy access.

“We’re going to now have gambling in every smart phone. Every iPhone. Every school, every library every Starbucks across the state,” said Jake Grassel, representing the group Citizens Against Gambling Expansion.

The Minnesota Lottery says it needs to expand in new markets to be successful. And early results of ticket sales at gas pumps show promise: one owner says it’s bringing in more gas customers, too.

“In order to purchase the “play at the pump” ticket, you’d also have to purchase gasoline,e too,” said Michael Tatge, the owner of The New Market convenience store in Madison Lake, Minn. “Also, you’d have to have a debit card, and you’d have to have a Minnesota driver’s license,” he said.

The Minnesota Lottery says it has the authority to set up new online games without legislative approval. And the Lottery Director, Ed Van Sletten, says lawmakers should be careful about micromanaging its marketing efforts.

“If we are going to legislate against marketing to young adults, I think you need to get a lot of the energy drink companies — Mountain Dew, for one – in here and talk to them, too,” Van Sletten said.

Van Sletten also said if the legislature shuts down online gaming, the state could lose $8 million a year in revenues.

More from Pat Kessler

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