Will video kill the pull-tab games?There are more than 1,200 active lawful gambling organizations in Minnesota. Depending on your perspective, those organizations were either given an opportunity or a challenge on September 18 when the state gambling control board approved e-tab (electronic pull-tab) and e-bingo games in the state.
By: Crystal Dey, Alexandria Echo Press
There are more than 1,200 active lawful gambling organizations in Minnesota. Depending on your perspective, those organizations were either given an opportunity or a challenge on September 18 when the state gambling control board approved e-tab (electronic pull-tab) and e-bingo games in the state.
Gambling managers met last Thursday and local establishments are poised to act once decisions in the area have been finalized.
“I think we’ll try [electronic games] right away,” said Andy Rassat, owner of Raapers Eatery and Ale in Alexandria.
Raapers currently has paper pull-tabs available at the back bar of the restaurant that benefit the Elks. Rassat is awaiting more details before moving forward with the process.
The concept has been contested for a number of reasons, most prevalent being the cost to charities. Charitable organizations received a tax break to help offset the cost of acquiring the games but it was less than the amount requested.
The gambling control board reported no up-front costs to charities. The price for devices and computer software will be determined by a percentage of actual sales.
While only one company, Las Vegas-based Acres 4.0, has begun production and distribution of the games, an additional nine have expressed interest. Organizations would like to see competition bring the price of devices down. Other points of contention are fraud prevention and enforcing guidelines.
The state receives $40 million each year from pull-tabs. After the addition of electronic games, about $60 million a year is predicted in new charitable gambling revenue for the Minnesota Vikings stadium. One-third of the Vikings stadium cost, $350 million of an estimated $975 million, is anticipated to be paid for by profits made through the electronic games.
Although the focus seems to be on the stadium, it is hoped that charities will benefit as well by increasing the number of players. Charitable gaming is a $1 billion industry in Minnesota but is on the decline. The iPad-like devices are intended to attract a younger audience.
Will the change be at the cost of those already accustomed to playing the cardboard tickets? Rassat said he thinks it will be a more difficult change for people who play pull-tabs than it will be for people who play bingo games.
Across town at Bug-A-Boo Bay, the change in platform isn’t enough to jump onboard just yet.
“We may look at it in the future,” said John Timmerman, Bug-A-Boo Bay owner.
Timmerman said the transition into electronic games will be easier for establishments already selling paper pull-tabs. Bug-A-Boo Bay currently does not have charitable gaming.
The games will continue to be monitored and were tested extensively at a national gaming laboratory in Las Vegas and the gambling control board offices in Roseville. If successful, games could shrink in size to resemble that of an iPhone.
Electronic pull-tabs will sell for not less than 25 cents and no more than $5 a ticket and no more than 7,500 tickets will be allowed per game. Winning tickets will be identified by unique serial numbers that may not be regenerated. Tickets cannot have spinning reels or any other representation that mimics a video slot machine, according to statute.
Equipment for the games must be leased from a licensed distributor and only used by a licensed organization. Security and access levels must meet prescribed objectives by the gambling control board and the system must contain a point of sale station; receipts are to be recorded daily.
The number of e-tab and e-bingo devices will be regulated according to the local fire code seating capacity of an establishment. Premises with 200 seats or fewer may have six devices and 201 seats or more may have 12. If a premise’s primary business is bingo, then no more than 50 devices can be in play at one time.
Only one device is allowed per player at a time. Devices will have the capability to allow use by a player who is visually impaired.
Games may be played between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 a.m. and users must present valid photo identification prior to engaging in game play.
Additional information on electronic gaming can be found at www.gcb.state.mn.us.
GAMBLING TO GAMING TIMELINE
1945 – Bingo legalized in Minnesota
1972 – First state lottery bill introduced in Minnesota
1981 – Pull-tabs legalized
1986 – Video gaming machines begin to appear in tribal casinos
1987 – Local governments allowed to tax charitable gambling
1992 – Minnesota joins multi-state Powerball game
1994 – Video lottery in bars rejected
2012 – Electronic pull-tabs approved by the Minnesota Gambling Control Board
Pre-2012 data provided by www.house.leg.state.mn.us.