Hotdish Politics: 'Scratch-off' online games are scratched

  • Updated: May 16, 2014 - 8:57 PM

last-minute tour: Students from the Thief River Falls class of 2020 toured the State Capitol on Friday. Lawmakers were expected to work well into the night on last-minute measures.

Photo: GLEN STUBBE • gstubbe@startribune.com,

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The Minnesota Legislature voted Friday to do away with the sale of scratch-off-style lottery games online, at gas pumps and ATMs following a contentious debate over whether the state’s lottery’s director had the authority to expand sales into those venues without legislative approval.

The Senate voted 56-5 and the House voted 126-2 for the ban, which would take effect Oct. 30. While the move does away with “scratch-off” games, which offer instant results, online sales of lotto-style games such as Powerball and Mega Millions, where players await a drawing to find out if they won, will remain intact. The vote followed harsh criticism from lawmakers about the gambling expansion.

Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, called the move indicative of “the theme of overreach by this administration,” similar to Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s earlier launch of online voter registration without lawmakers’ approval. A judge last month ordered that to a halt, but the Legislature quickly approved it, keeping the website intact.

Lottery Executive Director Ed Van Petten said Thursday that he expected the move to outlaw online sales would pass, but was disappointed.

“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.”

Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said the move would cost the state $11.7 million, in part because of vendor contracts that will be ended, but that it “sends a pretty clear message that the Senate does not want what they consider to be an expansion of online gambling without legislative approval.”

“There are going to be financial consequences,” she said.

Veterans Day bill clears House

A measure granting Minnesota veterans time off on Veterans Day cleared the Minnesota House on Friday, over some debate whether it could impact their ability to get jobs.

The bill, authored by Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, passed 111-17. The measure requires employers to provide veterans with paid or unpaid time off on Nov. 11 of each year. Exception can be made if the day off would affect public health or safety or would cause “significant economic or operational disruption.”

Veterans must let their employers know 30 days in advance if they plan to take the day off.

Not all lawmakers were behind the bill. Rep. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, said lawmakers should strive to create fewer hurdles for returning veterans when it comes to adjusting to civilian life. “Right now we’re putting up a roadblock for people hiring a veteran because when we need them to work they’re not available,” Gunther said.

Longtime military veteran Rep. Ernie Leidiger said veterans don’t necessarily want to be singled out once they return to civilian life.

“They’re coming back, reintegrating into society and they don’t need a special day,” said Leidiger, R-Mayer.

But Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, was incredulous that the bill was under debate, adding that he’d never be able to return to his home’s VFW and say he voted no.

“Some of you live in La La Land if you think all employers treat veterans well. Some of them treat veterans disgracefully,” he said.

Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, said the bill was as much about protecting cultural erosion as it was honoring veterans.

“Over the years we are demeaning holidays time and time again. It’s getting to the point that we are using holidays to go shopping,” she said. “This is an opportunity for us as leaders to say ‘This is an important holiday.’ ”

Abby Simons

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