Gas-Pump Lottery Sales Running Out of Luck?

Minnesota legislators close to passing bill banning contested service

Minnesota Lottery (CSP Daily News / Convenience Store)

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota State Lottery officials are attempting to broker a compromise that would stop state legislators from passing a measure that would ban lottery sales online and at the convenience store gasoline dispenser, reported The Star Tribune.

A bipartisan bloc of legislators is upset that lottery officials embarked on the sale of scratch-off lottery tickets online and at gas station pumps without their approval. They say it is an unauthorized and dramatic expansion of state-backed gambling, said the report.

A measure to immediately halt online and gasoline-pump lottery ticket sales cleared the Senate in late April and awaits a final vote in the House, where support is strong, the report said.

Lottery officials contend that gasoline-pump ticket sales are marketing measures to help retailers who think online sales will siphon off their sales.

State lottery director Ed Van Petten has argued that he is not required to get legislative approval to conduct Internet or gasoline-pump sales, since they are the same games consumers buy at c-stores.

Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) said legislators are trying to micromanage a state agency that is under control of the executive branch. Online ticket sales began under Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and have accelerated under Dayton, who said he is trying to listen to all sides of the issue, but a strong bipartisan vote could dissuade him from exercising his veto power.

Rep. Kathy Lohmer (R) said that c-store owners in her district have visited her, worried that online sales will hurt their business. She said they agreed to take on the cost and hassle of selling lottery tickets only as a means of drawing customers into their stories to buy snacks and drinks.

"If they can do it online or do it at the gas pumps, it really doesn't bring people into their stores," Lohmer said. "It hurts their businesses."

Some gas stations now have pumps with TV-style screens and ticket dispensers that allow customers to purchase their lottery tickets without going inside the store.

The governor said legislators' additional push to ban lottery ticket sales at gasoline pumps is another sign that "the fires have been lit by some of the interest groups."

Linq3, a New York company that makes the interactive gas station pumps that sell lottery tickets, has upped its lobbying force at the Capitol from three members to eight in the past two months, said the report. Its lobbyists are trying to separate their interactive gasoline pumps from the furor over online lottery ticket sales.

"There has been a lot of misinformation about what our technology does and does not do," David Johnson, a lead lobbyist for Linq3, told the newspaper.

Click here to read the full Star Tribune report.