Online Lottery Sales Debate in Minnesota to Spill Over into 2015

Minnesota State Lottery

Online lottery sales lauded amidst controversy, as proceeds used to fund local projects in Minnesota

When Minnesota decided to vote to create a state-run lottery little did they know that 26 years later, the lottery would provide the state with $2.4 billion. The money has been used to finance many environmental and public projects in every county in the state.

Ed Van Petten, the executive director of the Minnesota State Lottery, vowed that they would run a fruitful and state-owned lottery, which they have done. Proof of this was mirrored in the $328 million in prizes to individuals and $127 million to public programs that were handed out last year.

Minnesota projects funded by lottery sales

Unlike some other forms of land-based and internet gambling sites in the US, thanks to the Minnesota lottery, environmental, educational, health care projects have benefited. The organizations that have been funded include the Minnesota Zoo and research projects such as the Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center project.

Overall, an estimated $1.3 billion was injected into the state’s general fund, over $660 million into the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and a whopping $159 million into the Game and Fish Fund and Natural Resources Fund. This, amidst the growing controversy of online lottery sales.
Peten argued that the lottery managed to do well despite the continuous changes in the marketplace. The 3,100 retail outlets collected $32 million in 2013 alone. Minnesota also gave its residents quite a few options to make sure the lottery was within everyone’s reach.

Online lottery sale under fire

The legislation to enable this has been a controversial issue since 2013. People have been given the option to buy tickets through mobile betting, by buying lottery tickets while filling up their gas tanks and through the use of an ATM machines.

Currently, 4 states including Minnesota, Illinois, Georgia and Michigan offer any kind of online lottery sales though Kentuck is soon set to provide that state with online sales in 2015. Legislators and lottery operators in Florida, West Virginia and Massachusetts would also like to up sales by fiddling with online technology.

• 21st-century options for buying lottery tickets cause controversy
• Minnesota declared as having Lottery’s first-in-the-nation online scratchers
• Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk vs. former House Commerce Committee staffer Chris Kwapick

But Minnesota has been careful not to offer new forms of gambling, as stipulated by state law. For example, online gaming is deemed as harmful if the players have no sense of responsibility Mr. Petten pointed out.

Some legislators however, disagree altogether, and seek to protect vulnerable individuals by prohibiting online lottery programs. Petten pointed out that if this was actually permitted, under US gambling laws, this would by no means stop people from gambling.

Studies show online gambling not addictive

In fact, when studies were made on online gaming, results showed that gambling on the Internet did not solicit one to become a gambling addict. Banning online lottery sales would not only encourage play that is not regulated but there would not be any way to collect state taxes.

The prohibitions would just instigate the public to frequent illegal out-of-state sites instead of encouraging the residents to buy lottery tickets in Minnesota, declared Petten. The state is proud of being able to initiate programs that help treat and prevent various problems linked to additive or irresponsible gambling, was his answer.

What Minnesota has done instead is to limit an individual’s online purchases to $50 a week so that compulsive gamblers would be forced to not overspend. State politicians still want to have online lottery banned anyway.

They vowed to continue to have the bill vetoed in 2015. Legislators claimed they had ‘veto-proof levels of support for killing off the Lottery’s first-in-the-nation online scratchers as well as rolling back online sales of ordinary draw tickets’.

Whatever the outcome, Minnesotans seem to support their lottery and are happy that the proceeds are used to better their counties. Further program improvements are forthcoming to ensure that important initiatives are funded and that players and retail partners are among the beneficiaries.

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