SouthWest News Media, 4/23/2015
A quarter-century ago, there was some spirited debate about whether Minnesota should become the 28th state to have a lottery.
Local proponents said lottery proceeds would be a way to fund state projects without raising taxes. Opponents argued the expansion of gambling through a state-sponsored lottery was “Un-Minnesotan.”
Ultimately voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing a lottery for Minnesota in November 1988, with the measure passing with 57 percent of the vote.
In April 1990 the first tickets were sold for the Minnesota State Lottery’s Match 3 game.
Sales in the first year were modest by today’s standards.
In the southwest suburbs, nearly 10 times more lottery tickets are now sold annually than during the inaugural year.
And while the odds of winning money through the lottery are stacked against participants (lottery sales have exceed $9.9 billion while players have won $5.9 billion), proceeds have benefitted organizations throughout the state.
“Minnesotans everywhere, their health, and their outdoor activities all benefit from our state lottery’s proceeds,” said Gov. Mark Dayton in a release marking the lottery’s 25th anniversary. “It has been professionally managed, well-run, and an important source of funding to improve our state.”
During the past quarter century, the state’s general fund, which supports education, transportation and health care, received more than $1.4 billion. Minnesota’s environment and natural resources have also benefited from the lottery through the game & fish fund, natural resources fund, and environment and natural resources trust fund. Together these funds have received $960 million from the lottery.
THE ‘BIGGEST PRIZE’
Since April 1990, more than $2.4 billion has benefited Minnesota in many ways, according to Ed Van Petten, executive director of the Minnesota State Lottery. “A better Minnesota. That’s the lottery’s biggest prize,” he said.
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen is one example of an organization benefitting from lottery proceeds.
The Arboretum is using $615,000 to implement educational efforts designed to raise awareness about pollinators, their role in the environment and the economy, and the challenges they currently face due to recent unprecedented decline, according to the lottery release. Exhibits, programming, and demonstration sites will explore the role of pollinators in plant reproduction, maintaining biodiversity, and supporting agriculture and provide guidance on actions individuals can take, such as with their landscaping choices, to help pollinators.
With funding from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) at the University of Minnesota was created in 2012 to use innovative science to find solutions to Minnesota’s aquatic invasive species problems.
Since that time, MAISRC researchers have launched studies to help slow the spread of zebra mussels in lakes and rivers; begun a search for a biological control of Eurasian water milfoil; and initiated several other studies to protect our lakes, rivers, and streams from the damage caused by aquatic invasive species, according to lottery officials.
The Lottery continues to evolve with the marketplace and has focused on offering products that are well received by our players and supported by our retail partners. Minnesotans in all 87 counties benefit from state lottery proceeds, and surveys show Minnesotans continue to both support their lottery and appreciate knowing the proceeds go to the public good.
“Everyone at the lottery is committed to making sure we continue to deliver for Minnesota in the 21st century,” said Van Petten. “Supporting critically important organizations like the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, Friends of the Mississippi River, and the Science Museum of Minnesota is at the core of why the lottery was created.”