Gambling opponents stepped up criticism of the Minnesota State Lottery on Thursday as it expands to offer scratch-off lottery tickets for sale on its website.
“Our state should not be involved in predatory gambling by encouraging families to take money from Main Street and blow it on Easy Street,” said Autumn Leva, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Family Council.
Lottery officials continue to quietly expand online offerings in what they hope will become an explosive area of growth for the state-backed gambling franchise.
The lottery’s expansion comes as a coalition of well-organized and well-financed gambling opponents have successfully beaten back numerous new gambling proposals at the Capitol, from a downtown casino to Las Vegas-style slot machines at horse racing tracks.
Lottery officials contend that state law dictates that they do not need legislative approval to expand online gambling options. Lottery officials routinely testify at legislative hearings about their new ventures, but they do not seek a vote of approval.
“The Lottery’s unilateral decision to expand online, without legislative approval … is an affront to the legislative process,” said Jack Meeks, president of Citizens Against Gambling Expansion.
The head of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota challenged lottery officials to allow lawmakers to challenge their expansion efforts. “If the Lottery does not share our genuine apprehension of online gaming being detrimental to Minnesota citizens, they should have no problem successfully navigating the legislative process.”
Online gambling made up less than 1 percent of the state's $560 million lottery business last year. But lottery sales have remained strong, having increased overall revenue for each of the last six years, even during the Great Recession.
Lottery aficionados will have their choice of a host of online scratch-off lottery games, digital replicas of the actual paper lottery tickets they now buy at retailers. Rather than scratching off the ticket with a coin, the customer uses a mouse and a cursor.
Online players can bet up to $50 a week, and problem gamblers can block themselves from the site. The lottery has several ways of ensuring customers are old enough to play and geo-locators to make sure they are in Minnesota.
The push into online gambling began during Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty's administration has showed no signs of slowing under DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.
When turkeys come to visit the Minnesota Capitol, great hilarity ensues.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty got winged in 2004 and wrestled in 2005, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar got a flapping surprise in 2011 and a turkey made a break for it in 2012.
Former Govs. Jesse Ventura (with his own before and after in 1999) and Arne Carlson in 1996 with calmer birds.
What will happen this year? Follow the live blog below to discover. The turkey arrives at 10:45 this morning.
Everything is in place for a one-day special session on Monday for lawmakers to approve disaster relief spending.
Despite weeks of talk of a special session the final confirmation did not come until Friday afternoon, when Gov. Mark Dayton officially summoned the Legislature back to St. Paul. During their brief time in the Capitol, lawmakers are expected to approve $4.7 million in disaster relief, $4.5 million of it to help communities damaged by the June storms.
As has become routine for governors, Dayton and lawmakers negotiated exactly what would be on the table for the special session before the governor officially called it. The reason is simple: While governors have sole power to summon lawmakers back into session, the Legislature has the power to end special sessions.
"If we don't have some sort of parameters around the session I think there would be a fair likelihood it would go off in a bad direction," former Gov. Tim Pawlenty said six years ago of his protracted negotiation with lawmakers over a special session.
Dayton formalized the negotiations. An agreement signed by the DFL and GOP legislative leaders as well as the governor, outlined four key points that they all could live with. The parameters included that the four legislative leaders would sign off on the exact language of the special session bill by today.
That sign off complete, Dayton proclaimed the need for a special session.
DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk endured criticism and praise during an hourlong talk at the Minnesota State Fair on Thursday.
Fairgoers who walked by the DFL booth criticized the legislative leaders for a new sales tax on agriculture equipment repairs and their inability to boost the state’s minimum wage, which has fallen more than $1 below the federal base wage of $7.25 an hour.
“All I see are taxes coming at us,” said David Werner, a farmer from Montevideo. “How can we say the DFL is representing us when they are slapping taxes on the ag related programs they never taxed before?”
Thissen said that lawmakers took a sizable step to lowering property taxes for farmers in the last legislative session, though he said not enough was done in that area in the last budget.
Massive cuts in state aid to cities and counties during the eight years GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty was in office caused local property tax collections to double, Bakk said, to about $8 billion.
“I am pretty proud of the fact that we bent the curve on taxes,” said Bakk, DFL-Cook.
Republicans have criticized Democrats for raising more than $2 billion in new taxes, which they say will become a drag on the state’s economy and threaten the business climate. Most of the new taxes come on the state’s top earners and some businesses.
Some attendees thanked Bakk and Thissen for balancing the budget and their commitment to improving the state’s education system.
“This was a strong year for Minnesotans,” said Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.