Sunday February 9,2014 : MINNESOTA LOTTERY ONLINE GAME PROVING POPULAR
‘Spicy’ online scratchcard doing well in its launch week.
Lottery players in Minnesota like a little extra spice in their action, and the lottery has obliged by launching a new online scratchcard that offers the chance to win up to $777 for a dollar ticket.
Appropriately branded Spicy, the new game displays an online tic-tac-toe-like game board and the player uses a computer mouse to click on the squares, hoping to get three 7s in a row. If that happens, the game pays out $777.
A trial version of the game can be played for free but no prize here: https://www.mnlottery-ilottery.com/eit/trynow/200
To play for real money, players must fund an account that also can be used to play other lotto-type games. Only people within the borders of the state of Minnesota may play online.
The lottery made no announcement of the game going live, but says that nevertheless the uptake has been encouraging, with 964 $1 tickets sold on Thursday's launch day and with minimal promotion.
Lottery Executive Director Ed Van Petten said Friday the soft launch was intentional to work out any problems, but the product had proved to be remarkably trouble free.
Minnesotans have been able to buy lotto tickets online for years, but there is clearly a demand for other gaming diversions from the lottery.
Van Petten said the game is aimed at attracting younger players to traditional games, and he expects many of the new players to buy paper tickets at retail outlets.
“We look at it more as brand awareness, more of a marketing tool than anything, to introduce our product to a new demographic,” Van Petten said.
Perhaps predictably, anti-gambling critics are already insisting that the lottery must have legislative approval before launching real money online games like Spicy.
Jack Meeks, a spokesman for Citizens Against Gambling Expansion, said that state law does not allow the lottery to set up online games. If the game is to be legal, he said, the Legislature must specifically approve it.
“When the Minnesota Lottery was written into statute and enacted over 20 years ago, no one could have imagined that technology would advance to where it is now,” Meeks said.
“The lottery’s unilateral decision to become the first state in the country to wade into online scratch-offs without legislative oversight is just further evidence that the lottery is overreaching and proves we need legalization to clearly define what they can and cannot do.”
Van Petten argues that state law does allow the new game. Lottery receipts are down 2.8 percent from a year ago, he said, and the new game could help boost flagging lottery interest and bring in a younger demographic that is comfortable in the online environment.
He said that the lottery does not want online games like Spicy to become the lottery's primary source of revenues, but that it is desirable to engage more efficiently with individuals via the internet – especially the younger generations now maturing over gambling age.
Online players in Minnesota are limited to spending $50 a week.