E-pulltab, bingo games will pay off, say supportersGenny Hinnenkamp travels the Duluth area, picking up proceeds from pulltab games, with profits destined for the charity she represents and the new Minnesota Vikings stadium. At the same time she dreams about getting more money as electronic pulltab games spread and statewide electronic bingo is added.
By: Don Davis, Alexandria Echo Press
ST. PAUL — Genny Hinnenkamp travels the Duluth area, picking up proceeds from pulltab games, with profits destined for the charity she represents and the new Minnesota Vikings stadium.
At the same time she dreams about getting more money as electronic pulltab games spread and statewide electronic bingo is added. But she is realistic about how fast the money will come.
“Everybody’s got to be patient,” Hinnenkamp said, counseling customers and legislators alike.
In the Minnesota Capitol, some lawmakers are worried that electronic pulltab games are not bringing in as much money as anticipated to pay taxes supporting the state’s portion of a nearly $1 billion Vikings stadium.
Taxes from pulltabs and a related bingo game that has yet to begin are supposed to eventually bring in $348 million for the stadium. However, since e-pulltabs began in September, they brought in less than expected because they are played in fewer locations than predicted.
Only about 120 sites around the state are hosting the electronic games, with earlier projections calling for 2,500 by July 1.
That is a number many lawmakers say cannot be reached in such a short time.
“I’m more concerned than I was before the hearing,” Representative Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, said after a House committee heard the numbers this week.
Even with the lower figures, House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said he does not see a need to make any changes in stadium financing this year. Gov. Mark Dayton is not expected to propose any changes in pulltabs, either, when he releases his budget plan on Tuesday.
Hinnenkamp would love to see changes that would provide her Duluth charity, Irving Community Association, more gambling money, but predicts things will pick up at its 19 pulltab sites once the wrinkles are ironed out.
“Some of our bar owners are really, really waiting to get started,” she said.
Bars and other businesses host pulltab games and split proceeds with charities that sponsor the games. The state collects taxes, some of which go to the stadium.
Most charities that sponsor games expect e-pulltab revenues to jump, but the real money may come from linked bingo games that can be played around the state and give winners big payouts. A state board has yet to authorize bingo to begin.
“I think that bingo is going to be a bigger one; you are going to see a lot bigger prizes,” said Rich Jarenson of the Bemidji Snowmobile Club, which sponsors pulltab games in 11 Bemidji-area bars and convenience stores.
Jarenson predicted bingo payouts of up to $30,000. If one bingo game produces no winner, the money rolls over into the next game, much like the Powerball offered by state lotteries.
“I think it is going to be a little more exciting,” Jarenson said.
His sites have not added e-pulltabs, but he expects to begin wading into the future in a month or two.
“In all honesty, until it gets going, we have some sites that are not going to look at it,” he said.
Where the future has arrived, players appear to like what they see.
The electronic games are going over without a hitch at Dilworth’s Mills Lounge, said Brent Kangas, gaming manager for the Dilworth Lions Club, which is receiving a percentage of the profits from the games. The games arrived at the bar January 2.
Kangas would not say how much money the games have brought in, but he said in the two weeks they’ve been in use, they’ve beaten the paper pulltabs games. In other locations, pulltab revenues have gone up along with e-pulltabs.
“We have people playing every day,” Kangas said. “It’s going good. I think we’re doing our part toward the stadium.”
That lackluster statewide response is mirrored somewhat by Willmar-area gamblers, who only have two locations, the Kandi Entertainment Center in Willmar and Brother’s Bar in Belgrade.
Service clubs, which tend to attract an older crowd, are being cautious about requesting the electronic pulltabs, said Mark Healy, gambling manager for Community Charities.
“It’s kind of a mixed reaction,” Kandi President Keith Pattison said. “The younger kids pick it up more and play it.”
In nearby Belgrade, Brother’s Bar hosts players from their early 20s to the late 70s.
“People that I never expected enjoy playing them,” bar manager Joyce Bobst said. “I believe it’s the entertainment value.”
Sites in the Douglas County area that offer electronic gaming include Garden Center in Alexandria, benefitting Community Charities of Minnesota; Herby’s Bar and Grill in Carlos, benefitting the Carlos Lions Club; and Bull Frogs Bar and Grill in Hoffman, benefitting the Hoffman Lions Club.
See related article Local bars excited over electronic bingo.