Thursday October 31,2013 : MINNESOTA LAWMAKERS CONCERNED OVER ONLINE GAMBLING EXPANSION
Reservations about state lottery's expansion into online games and ticket sales.
Minnesota state lawmakers interrogated state lottery officials Wednesday at a hearing of the House Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee on the broadening sales platforms used by the lottery.
Several legislators said they were concerned about the lottery's push into Internet ticket sales and games, and how much further virtual gambling might go, the local newspaper The Republic reports.
Lottery director Ed Van Petten said customers will soon be able to purchase popular scratch-off tickets via the Internet, and that the lottery also plans to expand sales of Powerball and Mega Millions tickets to more gas pump terminals and ATMs.
Van Petten said the lottery sees online gambling products as a way to cater to younger players and expose more people to the games. He said evidence doesn't support concerns that brick-and-mortar retailers will see their sales suffer as more games are available online.
"An online presence creates brand awareness in our product," Van Petten said.
Republican Rep. Greg Davids argued that the lottery was pushing too far too fast. He said more forms of gambling might only cause more problems tied to addiction, and he questioned whether the lottery had the authority to implement the games without explicit legislative approval.
"The way it looks to me is we have the lottery gone wild because they think they can do anything they want at any time they want," Davids said.
However, Van Petten assured the committee that his agency won't follow the example of other states and seek to become involved in casino-style online games, as was the case in New Jersey and Delaware.
He claimed that the lottery's online offerings merely match what customers can already buy in other forms, and added that there are safeguards in place to prevent problem gambling, such as wagering limits and player tracking.
Al Lund, executive director of Allied Charities of Minnesota, said he thinks the lottery should have to get the Legislature's approval before expanding its offerings or that charities be allowed to compete equally.
"Internet gaming very well might be the largest expansion of gaming ever in Minnesota," Lund said.
The Minnesota Lottery 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. The state Constitution requires at least 40 percent of net proceeds be deposited in a natural resources trust fund.