- Associated Press - Monday, March 24, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The North Dakota Lottery is marking its 10th anniversary with an updated logo and new equipment that will allow gamblers to step aside and check their own tickets for winnings without holding up lines.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who oversees the lottery, said people increasingly had become frustrated with waiting to pay for “gas, pop and milk” at convenience stores and other retail locations while someone else attempted a long shot at a big payday.

The new machines, on display Monday at a supermarket in Bismarck, are being placed at more than 400 locations across North Dakota that sell the multistate lottery games.

“It’s something customers and retailers really wanted to see,” Stenehjem said in an interview.

The first lottery ticket was sold on March 25, 2004, to Rep. Andy Maragos, R-Minot, who led an initiative campaign that put the lottery measure on the ballot in November 2002. Voters agreed to amend the state constitution to allow the introduction of Powerball, which is played in more than 40 other states, including those that border North Dakota.

North Dakota Lottery’s five games - Powerball, Hot Lotto, Wild Card 2 and 2by2 and Mega Millions - have had cumulative sales of more than $215 million since the first ticket in the state was sold, data show.

Maragos said most of those gambling dollars previously had been going to neighboring states.

“I could almost hear that money being sucked out of the state,” he said in a telephone interview. “I think by allowing the sale of multistate lottery tickets, it kept all of those sales at home and has saved us literally millions of dollars. On balance, I think the voters of North Dakota were right.”

Former North Dakota Gov. Art Link, who died in 2010, was one of the state’s foremost gambling critics and fought proposals to expand the industry in the state, including the initiative to allow the Powerball game. The lottery, he said, would make gambling more widespread and increase the number of compulsive gamblers.

Link called the start of the lottery in the state a decade ago “a sad day for North Dakota.”

But proponents, like Maragos and Stenehjem, point to the $56 million that has gone to the state’s general treasury since the lottery began. The lottery also has provided $2.5 million for drug enforcement over the past decade and $2 million to provide counseling for gambling addicts.

North Dakota lottery players have won more than $79 million since the lottery began. The biggest jackpot was a Wild Card 2 winner who raked in $1.6 million. North Dakota has had a pair of $1 million Powerball winners, officials said.

Stenehjem said he is the only attorney general in the nation tasked with overseeing a state lottery. North Dakota also is one of six states that allow lottery winners to remain anonymous, he said.

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