Dayton braces for new fight over online lottery ticket sales, after vetoing bill barring them

Gov. Mark Dayton is braced for a repeat struggle over the Minnesota Lottery and said Tuesday that its director faces a challenge in trying to preserve online ticket sales that many lawmakers want to outlaw.

Dayton expressed little doubt that the Legislature will again attempt to bar most virtual ticket sales, and acknowledged that the veto he used to short-circuit their push last spring might not hold up.

At the urging of Lottery Director Ed Van Petten, Dayton struck down the proposed curbs that the House and Senate passed by wide margins. Lawmakers had adjourned the session so they had no chance to override the veto.

"The bottom line is if the vote is in both bodies as it was this spring, if I vetoed it, they would override it," Dayton told reporters after a State Board of Investment hearing. "The director has his work cut out for him, but he deserves the chance to make his case."

Republican Rep. Joe Hoppe, the incoming House Commerce Committee chairman, said discussions about reining in the lottery will probably begin earlier in the session.

"This is one of those rare issues that you get pretty strong bipartisan support for," Hoppe said. "You had some people who didn't like gambling, you had some people who didn't like to see it expanded online and you had the biggest contingent of people who didn't like it being done without legislative consent."

The Democratic governor has said he believes the lottery has the unilateral authority to set up virtual instant-play games that launched in February. Lawmakers disagreed and also tried to strip the lottery of the ability to sell tickets via gas pumps or ATMs.

Dayton said he opposes far-reaching restrictions that are done solely to limit competition from other lottery vendors.

The bill he stopped last time would have pulled the plug on "scratch-off"-style games over the Internet and barred the lottery from ever having electronic blackjack, craps, keno, dice games, roulette or poker. The lottery would still have been able to subscription sales for draw games such as Powerball and Mega Millions.