Minn. lottery officials move to end gas pump, ATM games

Published 10:16 am Thursday, August 6, 2015

ROSEVILLE  — Minnesota Lottery officials are working to suspend contracts with vendors in order to end online, gas pump and ATM games by the end of the month.

Lottery officials plan to stop selling lottery tickets at gas pumps and ATMs by Aug. 29 and online by Aug. 31. Those dates come about a month before the deadline set by the Legislature to end the games.

Lottery players have been notified about the pending shutdown, including the dates when specific games and related services will be disabled. The first change came this week, when players could no longer add money to their online wallets.

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It’s unclear how much it will cost to suspend vendor contracts. But lottery officials estimate the two primary vendors, Scientific Games and Linq3, are entitled to at least $12 million in damages.

Minnesota Lottery Director Ed Van Petten said he thinks the matter can be negotiated in “good faith,” but it still could trigger a lawsuit.

The Legislature ordered that the online, gas pump and ATM games be shut down even though the lottery had contracts with the outside vendors to run them. Van Petten said he remains disappointed and perplexed by the Legislature’s directive to suspend the contracts, but he’s carrying it out.

Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in two consecutive sessions to stop the games. They argued the lottery had overstepped its authority with an expansion that never had their approval. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the bill in 2014, but this year allowed it to become law without his signature.

The games in question represent only a small fraction of the state’s overall lottery business. Gas pumps and ATM sales began in October 2012, and have brought in $90,732 to date. The online instant games were launched in February 2014 and have brought in $930,536.

Although the legislation only targeted instant games, the suspension of the Scientific Games contract also means that the lottery will have to stop online draw games, including Powerball and Mega Millions, which have been available online since 2010 and have brought in $5.3 million to date.

Rep. Tim Sanders, R-Blaine, the chief sponsor of the House bill that ended the games, said he has no regrets. Sanders said the action was needed to rein in the lottery and also to protect charitable gambling.

“I would much rather have those dollars being spent at the local level, in the community, infusing those charities, than for the lottery to be going off on their own, expanding really against the wishes of the Legislature without seeking their approval and having those dollars go to the state,” Sanders said.