On Thursday, gambling opponents stepped up their criticism of the Minnesota state lottery 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 off Main Street and waste 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 growth area for the state-backed gambling franchise.
The lottery’s expansion comes as a coalition of well-organized and well-funded gambling opponents have successfully pushed back on numerous new gambling proposals on Capitol Hill, from a downtown casino to casino-style slot machines. Las Vegas on racetracks.
Lottery officials argue that state law says they don’t need legislative approval to expand online gambling options. Lottery officials regularly testify at legislative hearings about their new ventures, but they don’t seek approval votes.
“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 that online gambling is harmful to the citizens of Minnesota, they should have no problem successfully navigating the legislative process.”
Online gambling accounted for less than 1% of the state’s $560 million in lottery activity last year. But lottery sales have remained strong, having boosted overall revenue for each of the past six years, even during the Great Recession.
Lottery fans will have a multitude of online scratch-off lottery games to choose from, digital replicas of the paper lottery tickets they now buy from retailers. Rather than scratching the ticket with a coin, the customer uses a mouse and cursor.
Online gamblers can bet up to $50 per week, and problem gamblers can get stuck on the site. The lottery has several ways to make sure customers are old enough to play and geolocators to make sure they’re in Minnesota.
The push towards online gambling that began under the administration of Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty showed no signs of slowing down under DFL Governor Mark Dayton.