Bill May End Some Minnesota Online Lottery Sales
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Instant-play Minnesota lottery games won’t be available on the Internet nor will tickets be sold at gas pumps or ATMs beginning in November if legislation ready for a final votes prevails.
A House-Senate panel adopted a bill containing the restrictions Thursday. The bill reels in a Minnesota Lottery that has gradually expanded into new areas without getting lawmaker permission first. Gov. Mark Dayton hasn’t formed a position on the bill and won’t until he receives it, said spokesman Matt Swenson.
Lawmakers would also pull the plug on the electronic versions of scratch-off tickets by Oct. 30. Those games that went live in February for now make up a speck of the lottery’s revenue, but officials had hoped they would be a growth area at a time when traditional sales were leveling off.
Lottery director Ed Van Petten warned the state could face a breach-of-contract lawsuit by its online vendor and would lose millions in anticipated sales. He prefers a veto.
“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say it’d make me happy,” he said of a veto. “I’d like to continue our project,” he said.
If Dayton does veto the bill, it would likely stand because lawmakers haven’t left themselves enough time to stage an override attempt. The bill has wide legislative support among a coalition of lawmakers who oppose gambling altogether, who think the lottery went beyond its scope and who fear the online games would eat away at convenience store sales. Tribal casino gambling interests and charities that run pull-tab games are also pushing for passage.
The bill explicitly bars the lottery from ever having electronic blackjack, craps, keno, dice games, roulette or poker.
The lottery wouldn’t entirely lose its ability to sell tickets online. It could still offer subscription sales for draw games such as Powerball and Mega Millions. Van Petten said he expects those games would be hampered too because the same vendor supplies them.
The head of Scientific Games International, the supplier, wrote lawmakers to say the company is prepared to shut the draw games down and wouldn’t rule out suing.
“While still preliminary, we expect our expenses to exceed $4 million,” said president Pat McHugh. “The reasonable profit recoverable as just compensation is still being calculated.”
Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, said he doubts the company will follow through on the threat because it has more lucrative contracts with the lottery that could be endangered.
“I wouldn’t cut off my right arm to save the edge of my right pinky finger,” Atkins said.
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