by Jim Boyle
Despite the its best efforts to put on a proper and successful fund raiser, the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce has pulled the plug on Ice Break 2011.
An investigator for the Gambling Enforcement Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety informed the chamber March 30 its event did not meet the letter of the law, and someone had registered a complaint to this effect.
The car has been removed from Lake Orono and all ticket sales have been stopped.
All ticket purchases will be refunded, according to a statement released by Debbi Rydberg, the president of the chamber.
Minnesota has two regulatory boards to monitor gaming activities: The Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Gambling Enforcement Division and The Minnesota Gambling Control Board.
Chamber officials explained the details of the event to the investigator and all the agencies that were contacted while researching this project, including a compliance officer with the Gambling Control Board.
“The executive director and board of directors believed that in moving forward they were acting responsibly,” Rydberg stated.
Doug Forsman, a gambling enforcement investigator, however, told chamber officials they got bad information and the fund raiser needed to be discontinued immediately.
Jim Arlt, the interim director of the alcohol and gambling enforcement division, said the event amounted to an illegal form of lottery or gambling because it did three things in concert and it’s not an approved form of gambling under state law.
The event offered a prize, was to be mainly decided by chance and some or all of the people involved were paying to participate. Take away the part about people paying or the prize and everything would have been fine, Arlt said.
The complaint came in from an anonymous indidivual, who had experience with the state denying a similar-type event and called to ask what gives with this event, Arlt said.
“This was an entity that wanted to do this right, but we got a complaint and we had to look into it,” Arlt said of the Chamber and Ice Break 2011.
Chamber officials accepted what Forsman had to say.
“While we are disappointed, we thank everyone who supported the event and for their support of the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce,” Rydberg said.
Alan Sakry, the chair of the Chamber Board also said it is dissapointing to have the plug pulled on the event, but said it’s better to have the situation surface now rather than later after the car had sunk into the lake.
Dennis Smith, a media relations representative for the state, said he has no doubt the event was harmless and beneficial to the community, but the state follows a baseline criteria that provide parameters for lawful gambling and protect people.
Ice Break 2011 was part of Shiver Elk River, an event billed as a community chill-a-bration.
The bulk of the event took place Feb. 12 and included the Shiver Plunge on Lake Orono, a chili contest and assorted outdoor events at Lions Park and a hockey tournament at Handke.
The Shiver Plunge raised more than $11,000 for 12 local non-profit.
Ice Break 2011 was the only part of the event designed to be a fund raiser for the Chamber.
The Ice Break contest offered chances at $20 a pop. Each chance had a minute of the day, so there were 720 chances for sale (each chance represented one minute in the a.m. and one in the p.m.), and whoever ended up with the time slot that matched the time that the red Pontiac broke through the ice — or the next closest time in the minutes that followed the vehicle’s plunge — was to win $2,011.