E-tab anniversary is more bitter than sweet

10:03 PM, Sep 16, 2013   |    comments
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Sample electronic pull-tab device

SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- Electronic pull-tab gambling in Minnesota celebrated its one-year anniversary, but the observance was more bitter than sweet.

E-tabs were to be a major funding source for the new Vikings stadium. However, the devices failed to deliver.

E-tabs were expected to produce the $348 million state portion of the billion dollar stadium bill. However, only about 300 bars in the state have installed the tablet-sized devices that facilitate the gambling. As a group, Minnesotans have pushed back on electronic pull tabs.

Ironically, paper pull tabs in Minnesota bars are doing extremely well. "Our paper business is extremely healthy," said Allen Lund, Executive Director of Allied Charities. "Our business was up 8 percent last year, over an 8 percent (increase) the previous fiscal year.

The bottom line is that patrons have preferred the old-fashioned paper games to the electronic games.

"About 10 percent of our charities, only about 10 percent of the sites that are currently in with other paper products are using the electronics," said Lund.

According to Lund, 91 percent of the revenue raised for the 1200 charities comes from paper pull tabs. Six percent is from paper Bingo games. Less than three percent is flowing from the E-tabs.

As it became clear that the E-tabs were not producing the projected revenue for the stadium project, Governor Dayton turned to cigarette taxes and other tax revenue to cover the state's stadium bill for one year. It is undetermined how longer term funding is to work.

Long time public funding opponent of Stadium funding State Representative Bob Barrett, R-Lindstrom, chose Monday to propose a last minute delay on the signing of a contract between the state and the Vikings.

"This is a proper way to fund it," said Barrett. "It is not too late. It is almost too late, but not too late."

Barrett told reporters in Saint Paul that he believes Minnesota negotiated an inferior deal to stadium builders in other states.

"In San Francisco, they achieved about a billion dollars in naming rights and personal seat licenses (PSLs)," said Barrett. "We can do that here. Well, we can do a part of that here. So, my bill only requires $150 million in naming rights, $175 million in PSLs."

The Vikings receive all of the naming rights and PSL revenue under the current deal.

"The Wilfs rode all over us, they really did," said Barrett. "If you look at our bill compared to the most recent bills in the country, 49ers, Cowboys, Giants, they (the Vikings) got everything they asked for."

Barrett insisted that the signing could be postphoned as long as six months, while a different bill is hammered out. However, the current deal is expected to be signed as soon as this week.

"I am asking that a better solution be looked at and agreed upon," said Barrett. "What we have now, it should not go forward."

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