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Minnesota Online Lottery Games Experiment To End

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Lottery's experiment with paperless, instant-play tickets sold over the Internet and other platforms will come to an end because Gov. Mark Dayton decided Thursday against vetoing legislation suspending the games.

The Legislature had sent Dayton the bill to stop the virtual games after overwhelming votes in the Senate last week and the House on Thursday. Spokesman Matt Swenson said Dayton would defer to their will rather than veto it, which could have subjected him to a possible override attempt.

After it goes into effect early next week without Dayton's signature, the lottery must halt the games within four months. The games were seen as a way to connect with next-generation players who do much of their business on laptops, tablets and smart-phones.

Dayton vetoed a similar bill last year that would have suspended the electronic "scratch-off" ticket sales at gas pumps, through ATMs and over the Internet. Lawmakers had adjourned for the year so lacked they chance to override him.

Lawmakers insist the lottery overstepped its bounds by branching out into electronic games without explicit approval. When those games went live early last year, Minnesota was the first state to sell instant-play games on the Internet in addition to a subscription service for draw games like Powerball.

"Every piece of gaming expansion or gaming activity has come through the Legislature. Big or small," bill sponsor Rep. Tim Sanders, a Blaine Republican, said. He said it's up to lawmakers to decide how far gambling goes.

The four-month window is meant to give the lottery time to get out of its contracts with certain vendors.

"It's not just turning off a switch," said Lottery Director Ed Van Petten. "We'll have to work with our vendors on that issue and determine what is and what isn't possible."

Still, lottery officials have warned that the state could get sued and face up to $12 million in early termination damages. Van Petten said about $850,000 worth of e-scratch tickets have been sold in the first 10 months of this fiscal year.

Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, said he was uncomfortable breaking the contracts and joined in an unsuccessful push to offer the lottery even more time.

"When you give someone your word, when you shake their hand you stick by it," Atkins said. "When you shake someone's hand and you come to an agreement, you honor that agreement."

The bill would let ticket sales for draw games continue over the Internet, which has resulted in $1.5 million in sales so far this fiscal year. But Van Petten said those would be in doubt as well because they're managed by some of the same vendors as the instant-play games.

"I can't imagine our vendors would continue the contract if we breach part of it," Van Petten said.

(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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