- Associated Press - Thursday, May 7, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The Minnesota Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to warn the state lottery that its days of selling instant-win tickets on the Internet, at gas pumps and through ATMs are numbered.

The Senate’s 56-8 vote would end the virtual games that the lottery launched last year without explicit legislative approval, which prompted cries of executive-branch overreach and expressions of concern that state-sponsored gambling was becoming too convenient.

“I hope the lottery has learned a lesson from this because this is an expansion of gambling that should not have happened,” said Sen. Barb Goodwin, a Columbia Heights Democrat.

It’s a message lawmakers first delivered a year ago, only to be trumped by Gov. Mark Dayton with a veto that came too late for them to override. In vetoing last year’s bill, Dayton said the lottery was acting within the bounds of the 1988 constitutional amendment that established it and was taking proper steps to modernize and stay viable. Lawmakers have left themselves more time to get the last word.

Dayton has stopped short of pledging another veto. He hasn’t ruled out letting the bill become law without his signature, a route he has rarely taken.

“I’ll have to decide where to take my stand in the next 10 days,” Dayton told reporters on Wednesday, referring to the bartering over legislation and the state budget ahead of the May 18 adjournment deadline.

Under the bill, lottery officials would have 130 days to wind down the games, a window built around the four-month notice that must be provided to gambling technology firms working with the lottery. But lottery officials warn that vendors could still seek millions of dollars in damages for early termination of contracts. Senators defeated an amendment to give the lottery until its contracts expire in 2018 to suspend virtual ticket sales.

Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said it was a mistake to invite a possible lawsuit in the Legislature’s zeal to punish the lottery.

“We’re scrambling for dollars every day here,” she said. “It is not a wise move.”

The House intends to vote next week on a companion bill. Last year, the measure passed by a lopsided margin.

Most at issue are the instant-play “scratch-off” games introduced last February. Minnesota was the first state with e-scratch games, where customers can buy up to $50 in tickets per week as long as they are located within the state and prove they are an adult.

Lottery director Ed Van Petten has said sales have been minor compared with the standard tickets sold at gas stations and other stores. He has described the new platforms as essential to reaching the next generation of players, who prefer to do transactions online than in person. In a written statement, Van Petten said he was disappointed in the Senate’s vote.

The bill also would halt tickets sold through gas-pump terminals at about 70 stations around the state. The lottery would be barred from venturing into casino-style games such as blackjack, craps, keno, dice games, roulette and poker.

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