by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
Don’t panic over electronic pull-tabs, a charitable gaming official counseled lawmakers.
“Those numbers are going to go up exponentially very quickly, said Allen Lund, executive director of Allied Charities of Minnesota, of the number of charitable gaming sites offering the electronic alternative to paper pull-tabs.
Lund’s and other gaming officials’ appearance before the House Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee on Wednesday (Jan. 16) might not have drawn television cameras but for the tie to the new $975 million Vikings stadium.
The state’s contribution towards the stadium hedges in part on the success of electronic pull-tabs.
But the sale of the first electronic pull-tab game in Minnesota only occurred on Sept. 18 of last year.
Currently, only about 120 charitable gaming sites are equipped with electronic pull-tab devices — just 108 of these actually selling, according to the Minnesota Gambling Control Board.
From the first sale in September to the end of the year, gross sales from electronic pull-tabs was $4.2 million.
The November budget forecast showed charitable gaming stadium revenue — dollars above a baseline — to be $18 million less than projected.
It was originally assumed that some 2,500 gaming sites in Minnesota would be offering electronic pull-tabs by last fall.
Now the goal has been pushed forward to July 1, explained a Revenue Department official.
Committee Chairman Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, deemed the goal “very aggressive.”
Lund said the members of his organization fall into three groups in terms of electronic pull-tabs.
One group wanted to try them immediately, while another group waited to see the number of providers grow so they could get the best deal.
The third group, with 25-year business relationships with paper pull-tab providers, are waiting for the providers to begin to offer electronic pull-tab devices.
Allied Charities is pro electronic gaming, pro stadium, Lund said.
“We would ask for your patience,” he said.
Gambling Control Board Executive Director Tom Barrett doesn’t believe the 2,500-site goal will be reached by July 1.
Ironically, electronic forms of pull-tabs and bingo have been seen as needed alternative to traditional, paper-based gaming.
But the sales of paper pull-tabs have increased.
Other gaming issues were discussed.
Edwin Van Petten, the new executive director of the Minnesota State Lottery, discovered some lawmakers weren’t warm to lottery’s “Play at the Pump” lottery sales experiment whereby lottery tickets can be purchased at the gas pump with the use of a debit card.
Atkins wanted a list of the gas stations offering “Play at the Pump” so he could avoid them — he didn’t want to wait in line for gas while somebody ahead gambled, he quipped.
“I think that’s the most ridiculous idea I have heard in my life,” Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, said of “Play at the Pump”.
Davids spoke of wanting to outlaw the game in his legislative district.
Studies have shown, said Van Petten, that it only takes players 10 to 15 seconds to buy a lottery ticket at the pump.
“Play at the Pump” is offered only about nine gas stations in the metro, he said.
Tim Budig is at [email protected]