When the Minnesota legislature soundly voted for a bill that would end online lottery games and ticket sales at gas pumps and ATMs in the state, many expected that to be the end of the story. But Governor Mark Dayton has given those games second life – though it may well be a very short-lived reprieve.
After some deliberation, Governor Dayton has voted the bill that banned many of the expanded services that the Minnesota Lottery had rolled out in recent years. The bill, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, will now be shelved until the next legislative session. Because the bill was passed on the last day of the previous session, the legislature has now adjourned – meaning that they cannot attempt to override the veto at the moment.
Lawmakers Confident of Eventual Passage
Were they in session, however, there’s little doubt that legislators would easily have the numbers to push the bill through without the governor’s support. The Senate passed their version of the bill (SF2642) with a 126-2 vote, while the House version was approved by a 56-5 margin. Both of these are clearly veto-proof majorities, and would stand even if a number of legislators felt uncomfortable overruling the governor.
Some lawmakers now believe that when the legislature reconvenes, they’ll pass an even stronger anti-lottery bill, and make certain they have the time and numbers to defeat a veto. The current bill banned online scratch card games, but still allowed standard lottery ticket sales over the Internet, and gave the lottery until late October to stop their other interactive games and sales avenues.
“We were more measured and more moderate, and now the governor has thrown all that out the window,” said Representative Joe Hoppe (R-Chanhassen).
Governor Believes Lottery Operating Properly
Governor Dayton, a Democrat, had said that he was torn between the overwhelming voice of the legislature, and the fact that the bill seemed to be at least partially pushed by other gambling interests that wanted the state lottery out as a competitor. In his veto letter, Dayton said that the laws governing the lottery gave the organization broad powers to determine how to produce revenue.
“The authorization for the Lottery stems directly from the people of Minnesota,” wrote Dayton, referring to the 1988 vote that led to the lottery’s creation. “It appears to me that the Executive Director is operating within the scope of his legislatively established authority.”
However, Governor Dayton did urge the Minnesota Lottery to seek closer ties to the state legislature to avoid further conflicts.
“Legislatures have raised concerns that they expect to be kept better informed of the lottery’s efforts,” Dayton wrote. “Those constructive professional relationships are essential to the success of any enterprise in the Executive Branch, and I urge the lottery director to re-establish them with legislators before the next legislative session.”
Other concerns from the governor included the fact that at least one lottery vendor was considering suing the state for breach of contract if these games were to be banned.
But legislators say that the level of access offered by these new games was just too much for the lottery to attempt without their support or consent.
“In effect what the governor is saying is, it’s OK for his lottery director, without consent of the Legislature…to sell lottery tickets anywhere, anyhow in the state of Minnesota,” Hoppe said. “I don’t think that’s right, and I think an overwhelming majority of the Legislature agrees with me, and this will not stand.”