Dayton vetoes bill outlawing online scratch-offs, electronic lottery sales

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The bill that would have banned the sale of online scratch-off lottery games and tickets at gas pumps and ATMs has been vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Dayton vetoed it Friday, the last day for him to take action on measures passed during this year's legislative session.

In his veto letter, Dayton says the internet is an "increasingly common way for the public to access services." The Minnesota Lottery, he writes, was approved by 57 percent of Minnesota voters a quarter century ago, and it has since generated $2.3 billion in revenue.

"By taking steps to modernize its operations and make the same games it sells in paper form available in new ways, the Lottery is attempting to respond to changes in technology and public preferences," Dayton says.

Dayton said earlier this week he was "torn" over the decision. It had also been reported Lottery Director Ed Van Petten wanted a veto.

'Lottery Gone Wild'

Lawmakers have been concerned about the Minnesota Lottery's online expansion since last year.

“The way it looks to me is we have the lottery gone wild because they think they can do anything they want at any time they want,” said Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, said.

Davids also questioned if the lottery has authority to add the games without legislative approval, and expressed concern that the ease of purchase might create gambling problems. Van Petten countered that the electronic offerings match what customers can already buy, adding that safeguards are in place to thwart problem gambling.

In January, members of a group called Citizens Against Gambling Expansion argued the lottery should need permission from the Legislature to bring its Minnesota games to the Web, the Pioneer Press reported at the time.

But the lottery went ahead with its plans anyway, and on Feb. 6, the first online scratch-off offerings hit the web. Eight weeks in, the lottery said daily sales reached as high as $3,500 at a time when lotto sales had been shrinking.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers took aim at the web-based games, saying Van Petten overstepped his authority as lottery director by implementing them without the Legislature's consent. Bills banning those sales passed by a wide margin in both the House and Senate.

Director Urged to 'Re-establish' Connection

In his veto letter, Dayton acknowledges the tenuous relationship Van Petten appears to have with the Legislature.

"Legislators have raised concerns that they expect to be kept better informed of the Lottery's efforts," he writes. "Those constructive professional relationships are essential to the success of any enterprise in the Executive Branch, and I urge the Lottery Director to re-establish them with legislators before the next legislative session."

The governor goes on, however, to defend Van Petten's decision, saying he appears to have acted "within the scope of his legislatively-established authority" when choosing to expand sales online.

Rep. Joe Hoppe tells the Star Tribune Dayton's veto essentially gives Van Petten the ability to sell lottery tickets "anywhere, anyhow" without legislative approval.

It's the only veto Dayton issued this session. In recent years, he's vetoed as many as 32 full bills in a single session (2012). In the past four years, he's vetoed a total of 58 bills – only once (a fireworks sales bill in 2012) did the Legislature attempt to override the veto. It was unsuccessful.

The Star Tribune says lawmakers won't get a chance to override this veto, since the session is over.

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