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ST. PAUL -- State Lottery contributes millions to the Minnesota state budget

Lawmakers will soon be pondering proposals aimed at expanding gambling as a partial buffer to the state's continued financial woes. But even as Minnesota's fiscal standing has worsened in recent years, it's been steadily receiving tens of millions each year from the Minnesota State Lottery.

The lottery dedicates 60 percent of its net proceeds to the state's general fund and 40 percent to the environmental natural resources fund. It also contributes to those funds plus the fish and game fund instead of paying sales tax, said Debbie Hoffmann, a spokeswoman for the lottery.

The lottery has contributed, in total, nearly $360 million to the state's general fund, its natural resources and its game and fish funds the last three years. Those totals could get larger if racetrack casinos or video gambling are approved by lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton.

That is because the lottery likely would be put in charge of managing the gaming machines if they are instituted at racetracks or bars, though the amount of revenue the state takes in would depend on the particulars of whatever bill passes, said Don Feeney, lottery research and planning director.

"All of that makes a tremendous difference in what the state gets," he said. "The devil is really in the details."

The organization takes no stance on whether the state should or shouldn't pass bills.

"The position we take is that if the bill passes we want it to be technically sound," Feeney said.

Andrew Tellijohn Is a Twin Cities freelance writer who writes for Forum Communication Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.