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New online instant gambling a winner, lottery director says

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Weeks after launching its online instant gambling program, the Minnesota Lottery has declared it a success, with daily sales totaling as much as $3,500.

MPR News quotes Minnesota Lottery Director Ed Van Petten, who said there has been "no real advertising" for the eight online scratch-off games that began to be offered via the lottery's website on starting on Feb. 6. He said the success has spilled over to the brick-and-mortar retailers who sell lottery tickets.

"We compared the five weeks prior to launch and the five weeks after the launch, and the average weekly sales per retailer has gone up by $393 dollars per week," he said.

While the lottery has offered lotto-style games on the Internet for more than three years, the addition of the online scratch-off games in February has generated a backlash, according to the Pioneer Press. Critics of online gaming maintain that online scratch-off games that allow gamers to play continuously from their computers increase the chances for addictive behavior.

The newspaper reported that a measure to do away with "play at the pump" lottery sales at some gas stations is moving through the Minnesota Senate and seeks to pull back the expansion of lottery offerings "beyond what was intended," according to the bill's sponsor Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook. The bill's sponsors say the lottery should have sought legislative approval before expanding online offerings.

Van Petten has disagreed, saying the 1989 law that established the lottery authorized his agency to sell lottery tickets and to decide how that's to be done. Van Petten told committee members Friday that the online program comes with spending limits to deter addictive behavior. The Minnesota Lottery sells about million dollars worth of tickets a day.

The state lottery generates more than $500 million per year in total revenue, with about 60 percent used for prizes. In fiscal year 2012, $124 million went to various state programs.

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