Electronic pulltabs for new Vikings stadium off to slow start

1:31 PM, Jan 17, 2013   |    comments
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Sample electronic pull-tab device

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The chair of the Commerce Committee in the Minnesota House of Representatives said he is concerned about the viability of electronic pull tabs and their ability to help fund the Vikings stadium.

At a Wednesday hearing, DFL representative Joe Atkins and other legislators questioned key leaders about lackluster revenue numbers.

"I remain and probably a little bit more concerned than I was before the hearing," said Atkins of Inver Grove Heights.

The state gets nearly 40-percent of what bars pull in on electronic pull tabs. The tax revenue from those games is supposed to fund the state's $348 million of the $975 million Vikings stadium to be built in Minneapolis. But the revenue fell short by $18-million through the end of 2012. Officials say Minnesotans have spent about $4.1 million so far on the electronic pull tabs since the games began in September. 

"There are a lot of anxious Vikings fans, but there also a lot of anxious taxpayers and anxious legislators," said Atkins.

That's because only 120 bars have electronic pull tabs up and running so far, the state thought it would have more like 300 by now and 2500 by this summer, which both legislators and gaming officials now believe is unrealistic.

"There are only a 120 sites operating to today, which means we need to have a 20-fold increase in the number of active sites in the next five months. And I just don't know how realistic that is," he said.

Tom Barrett, the Executive Director of the Minnesota Gambling Control Board, told KARE 11 a lot of bars and charity organizations are taking a wait and see approach, unsure if the new pull tabs will be worth it. Each business has to pony up about $1,000 for installation of the electronic devices, which can be a lot for small town taverns.

Barrett tried to ease concerns.

"This is long term bonding, were four months in to this format that has not been tried anywhere," he said.

Al Lund is with Allied Charities of Minnesota, which represents about half of the license charity organizations in the state. Licensed charities also get a cut of the proceeds from electronic gaming.

"We would ask for your patience. When electronic bingo is available, when all the distributors that want to distribute electronics get up and running, those numbers are going to go up exponentially," Lund told legislators.

The state claims the businesses that have electronic pull tabs are doing well.

"I'm really happy on how our numbers on electronics are doing," said Dan O'Gara who owns O'Gara's on Snelling in St. Paul.

Since September, his bar has made about $16,000 on electronic pull tabs and he said his paper pull tabs have increased.

"Everything we've dealt with has been positive," he said.

Representative Atkins believes the legislature has until the end of the session, which is in May to make any changes to the funding for the state's portion of the Vikings stadium.

"I'm still hopeful, but we definitely need to keep track of how this will play out," said Atkins.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. )

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