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The head of the Minnesota Gambling Control Board said that a solicitation for funds on the national website of the Barack Obama presidential campaign may constitute a raffle, which is a violation of Minnesota gambling laws.
Tom Barrett, executive director of the board, said he will ask the state Department of Public Safety to look into the matter.
The Obama campaign said Monday night that the solicitation does not constitute a raffle. "We are not conducting a raffle of any kind," said Nick Kimball, a spokesman for the Obama campaign in Minnesota.
The Obama website, which is soliciting funds of up to $2,300, says anyone who makes a contribution to the Obama campaign of $5 or more between now and July 31 "could be one of 10 supporters chosen to meet Barack backstage" in Denver.
It further says that the 10 selected supporters can bring a guest and will be flown to Denver to spend two days at the Democratic Party national convention, including hearing Obama's speech on Aug. 28.
Barrett said he received a phone call from someone who had seen the website, and after reviewing it, decided to contact the Department of Public Safety.
Barrett said his office regulates only charitable gambling. The state Gambling Board website specifically states that one cannot conduct a raffle as a fundraiser for a political campaign. Only nonprofit charities may conduct raffles.
He said three elements make a drawing a form of gambling under state law: if it costs money to participate, if it involves "the luck of the draw" in which no skill is involved and if one wins something of value.
Barrett said that if one could participate in the drawing to become one of the 10 special guests without making a contribution, then it would not be gambling. But he could find no mention of that possibility on the Obama website.
He also said that if the website stated that the offer was void in Minnesota, it would also be legal.
He said sometimes ads state "void where prohibited by law," but he is not sure that would suffice in this case. It is not clear whether other states prohibit political raffles.
Kimball said, "We will consider individual stories, where they live and other factors to select a group that will reflect the enthusiastic supporters behind Sen. Obama's campaign to change our country and get America back on track."
Asked if the campaign planned to explain the criteria for being selected to be one of the 10 people to go backstage, Kimball said, "The website doesn't say anything about the criteria for selection."
He said that if anyone had questions about the selection process, they could contact the Obama campaign.
The Democratic Party announced on Monday that Obama will accept the nomination for president at Denver's Invesco Field at Mile High, which can accommodate 75,000 people.
Earlier sessions of the convention will be at Denver's Pepsi Center.
Randy Furst • 612-673-7382