Legislative panel moves to ban online scratch-offs

Proposal also would outlaw gas pump and ATM tickets.

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Minnesota quietly debuted a lottery ticket for the 21st century: a paperless purchase at a gas station pump or ATM, with quick-pick numbers sent via text message to your cell phone, and small jackpots automatically deposited into your bank account.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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A committee of legislators moved Thursday to ban the sale of scratch-off tickets at gas pumps, ATMs and online, a decision the Minnesota State Lottery director found disappointing but not surprising.

The bipartisan conference committee on lawful gambling voted to outlaw online scratch-off sales effective Oct. 30 but left intact the online sales of Powerball and similar games. The move could likely cost the state’s lottery between $25 million to $30 million in sales over the next couple of years, executive director Ed Van Petten said. Since February, the new online games account for just $235,000 compared with $145 million in paper ticket sales.

“It’s obvious the movement was based on total misinformation, but it is what it is,” Van Petten said. “The Legislature is telling me they don’t want the additional revenue, and that’s their choice.”

The proposed ban now heads to the House and Senate floors. Legislators have harshly criticized the lottery’s expansion into online ticket sales because it was done without their authorization.

“I feel like we are being held hostage” by the lottery’s contract with online gamers, Rep. Leon Lillie, DFL-North St. Paul, said earlier this week. “I am greatly disappointed in so many different areas.”

Van Petten has maintained the games are the same — only the point of sale has changed — and such permission wasn’t needed. The measure also attracted the attention of charitable gaming advocates and tribal casinos over concerns that it would cut into their revenue.

Van Petten stopped short of saying that he’d urge Gov. Mark Dayton to veto the measure which he expects to pass, maintaining he’d offer his opinion that it’s a “bad move” only if Dayton asks for it.

“I sat through all these hearings and not one person ever had a fact or evidence that supported their position,” Van Petten said. “It was all emotions and conjecture.”

ABBY SIMONS, BAIRD HELGESON

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