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Minnesota Legislature

Lottery at the gas pump could be pulled

Retailers who offer so-called pay-at-the-pump state lottery tickets have seen sales increase by 3 percent on average during the couple of years the option has been available, according to a Minnesota Management & Budget analysis.

While bringing more money to state coffers and nonprofit organizations, critics question the social cost of making gambling more accessible. Additionally, some think the Minnesota State Lottery overstepped its powers by enacting pay-at-the-pump without express authority from the Legislature.

The House passed HF374/SF229* 122-6 on Thursday, which would suspend the practice. The bill, passed 56-8 by the Senate May 7, now moves to the governor’s desk.

“The heart of the issue is who creates the laws of the state — the regulatory industry or the Legislature?” said Rep. Tim Sanders (R-Blaine), who sponsors the bill with Sen. Lyle Koenen (DFL-Clara City).

Sanders said the Legislature has always decided the direction gambling would take in the state, and that lottery officials made the move to offer the electronic options on their own.

Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights), who sponsored a similar bill last year, said the agency was encouraged by the Legislature “to be entrepreneurial, and seek to get into areas where potential revenues could be added. They are only doing what lawmakers asked them to do a number of years ago.”

Another concern was whether the bill would create a cause for action against the state for damages from vendors supplying the services who would see their contracts suspended.

Rep. Dennis Smith (R-Maple Grove) was unsuccessful with his amendment to allow the contracts to run their course and then suspend the pay-at-the-pump lottery program.

The bill also would:

  • prohibit the lottery director from offering casino-style games;
  • raise the threshold from 32 to 100 tickets for tipboard placards that must be signed by players;
  • exempt hot-ball bingo prizes from the prize limit of $200 for a single bingo game; and
  • clarify that the prize for a progressive bingo game may start at an amount less than $500.

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