Minnesota Lottery Causes Quite a Stir

Long-standing but somewhat secretive initiative causes a row

The latest news from the Minnesota State Lottery is that its management is strongly criticized for launching a year-long initiative to get more Minnesotans to play online without publicity or announcements of its existence. Namely, what the company offers to punters who like to enjoy lottery online is a lottery subscription service, which they believe could boost their declining sales.

It seems like such a move does not please many a lawmaker, who see it as "secret, aggressive tactics" that had circumvented legislative approval.

According to Assistant Senate Majority Leader David Hann, a Republican who tried to abolish the lottery six years ago, "It's reprehensible. We are spending a lot of taxpayer money to lure people into throwing money down the toilet so we can spend it on something that we think is more important.

"To me it seems like they are exercising some latitude they might not have."

Apparently, some heard about the online lottery tickets only days ago, including state Gov. Mark Dayton's administration. In that respect, a spokesman for the governor stated that such practice began before Dayton came to the office, adding that they haven't been looked into yet.

The aforementioned arch opponent of gambling, David Hann, received support from State Rep. Ryan Winkler, who is a member of committees that review gambling issues: "I certainly want to find out if they have the authority to do it. It looks like they are trying to avoid public attention," he said.

However, it has been claimed by the lottery management that the online subscription service only lets players gamble $50 a week, and is more similar to e-commerce than online gambling, which is why it does not need legislative approval.

They also stated that there was no secrecy about the initiative, and that it has been pursued with caution, in order to prevent "spooking" traditional retailers. In conclusion, the management stated that 'political tides surrounding gambling are shifting rapidly and things that are forbidden now could soon be legal.'

When approached for a comment, the Minnesota attorney general's spokesman underlined: "No one has requested it (a review of the initiative) and no one has given any advice from our office."

As for the U.S. Department of Justice, its spokesman has declined to comment on the legality of online ticket sales.

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