Panel votes to ban online lottery sales
ST. PAUL – The Minnesota State Lottery’s Internet ticket sales either are the wave of the future or will devastate families, a state House committee heard Thursday before approving a bill to ban the practice.
The bill would shut down Internet lottery ticket sales that have been available the past four years and it would shutter the online version of scratch-off tickets that debuted earlier this year.
David Gale of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries told the House commerce committee that Minnesota must continue online sales “if you expect to remain relevant, if you expect to have a player option 10 years from now.”
To remain viable, the lottery must reach out to youths, lottery Executive Director Ed Van Petten said. “That is the emerging market for all of us,” he said.
On the other hand, Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, said no good would come from Internet sales.
“This is a massive, massive expansion of gaming with no statutory authority to do so...” Davids said. “This is not the online lottery, this is online crack. This is addictive and this will destroy families.”
Rep. Ann Lenczewski, D-Bloomington, said she authored the bill because it is “our responsibility to make this decision.” Legislators debate most gambling-related decisions for years, she said, but the online sales decision was made by Van Petten.
The lottery director told the committee that state law gives him the authority to make such a decision.
While Van Petten has set a $50-a-week limit for online lottery purchases for each customer, Jake Grasso of Citizens Against Gambling Expansion said that the director could raise that limit at any time if he decides “50 bucks is not enough.”
Van Petten said the scratch-off games, which began Feb. 6, are not hurting retail pulltab sales and should help them. He also said the lottery does not compete with charities that sponsor scratch-off games, but Al Lund of Allied Charities disagreed, saying charities would lose money to online lottery sales.
The bill heads to the House rules committee. A similar bill awaits Senate consideration.