Local bars excited over electronic bingoOwners and managers of local bars with electronic pulltabs say that the games are slowly catching on, but they’re more excited about electronic bingo. They’re also wondering why more bars haven’t plugged in to electronic gaming yet.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
Owners and managers of local bars with electronic pulltabs say that the games are slowly catching on, but they’re more excited about electronic bingo.
They’re also wondering why more bars haven’t plugged in to electronic gaming yet.
Right now, only 120 bars out of thousands across Minnesota offer E-pulltabs, including three in the Douglas County area — Herby’s Bar and Grill in Carlos, Garden Center in Alexandria and Bull Frog’s Bar and Grill in Hoffman.
“To be honest, I’m surprised that more bars don’t have them,” said Chris Hanson with Herby’s. “They’re very easy to use and you don’t miss a winner. It tells you when you win something.”
Why aren’t more bars offering the games?
“The ones I’ve talked to are taking a wait-and-see approach,” Hanson said.
Herby’s has had the electronic games since around Thanksgiving and the results have been mixed.
“From my standpoint, it’s been working extremely well,” Hanson said. “It’s easy to use. It does everything automatically. But getting people to play them – a lot of customers have mixed feelings. They like the paper pulltabs.”
The electronic-savvy younger generation seems to be more interested in the electronic games, Hanson added.
The frequent pulltab players are leery about the electronic version of the games, said Charlie Meyer, owner of Garden Center.
“It’s taking a little time,” he said. “It started out great but it’s maybe a little softer now. Overall, play is up…A whole lot of novices are playing it and then there are those guys who stick with the cardboard.”
The bigger prize pay-outs for the electronic games are enticing. Herby’s has paid out top prizes of $599 to two lucky winners and it recently added two $5 E-pulltab games that offer a $1,499 prize.
The prizes will be even bigger when the state launches electronic bingo. There’s talk of $20,000 payouts.
“I’m more excited about statewide linked bingo than the pulltabs,” said Meyer. “Bingo could take it to the next level.”
Local bars are frustrated that the electronic bingo isn’t up and running yet.
“They’ve been working on it since last June. Come on, already,” said Meyer.
The bar industry needs a big lift right now, said Jeremy Phillips, owner of Bull Frog’s. Bars are still reeling from the statewide smoking ban. Predictions that non-smokers would more than make up for the loss of smokers at bars fell woefully short, he said.
“That [smoking ban] took out 350 bars, two in Grant County just this month,” he said. “People just aren’t coming out to the bars as much.”
The electronic games have some drawbacks, said Phillips, who has had the games up and running for about a month. The bars receive a 20 percent cut of the sales for paper pulltabs but only 15 percent for the electronic versions. “Who wants to lose another 5 percent?” he said.
Customers also like the cardboard version because they don’t have to get up out of their seats to play, Phillips said. They just have a bartender or waitress bring the pulltabs to them.
Bartenders don’t like the E-pulltabs because they don’t get any tips, Phillips added.
It also takes a little time to get a secured system installed and bars have to pay for an additional secure Internet line, Phillips said.
There are some positives with the electronic games, however, Phillips said. “It’s easier to run,” he said. “There’s no paperwork and signing forms.”
Phillips, too, is looking forward to electronic bingo’s debut. “Everyone is waiting to see when bingo is coming out,” he said. “The state will pool bigger jackpots and that should get more people interested.”
See related article E-pulltab, bingo games will pay off, say supporters.