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ALDEN, MN — It is a strategy to help fund the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, but one that has been coming up very short of expectations.
Electronic pulltabs are not taking off like state leaders hoped so they introduced their newest effort.
Pulltabs have been a tradition at area bars for decades, but there is a new way to play.
“This way here you can choose and switch out games in the middle or do whatever you want. You can spend so much money and you ain’t got that big mess all over,” said James Raimann of Minnesota Lake.
Some bars in the area hope gambling electronically takes off.
“Being business owners, we’re always looking for another stream of revenue for our business, so we thought we’d give it a try,” said Sue Minehart, co-owner of the Main Street Grill in Alden.
Minehart and her husband jumped on board with electronic pull tabs in December. They say so far the response from customers has been pretty good.
“It has helped us attract some customers that we hadn’t necessarily had in the past. We were aware that we had a fair number of people that were stopping through on their way to casinos,” Minehart said, “When we had a chance to see the system we realized that it could easily fit into that type of a customer.”
While Minehart and her husband seem to be doing fairly well with the new technology, she can see why it may be falling a bit under expectations.
“The people that I know who are paper pulltab players, some of them embrace it and some of them don’t. It is on an iPad, not everyone embraces an iPad, that’s somewhat of a generational thing,” Minehart said.
The state originally expected to raise $35 million by the end of this year with electronic pull tabs; they have since dropped that number to under $2 million.
But they have a plan-b. Their next attempt to raise the state’s nearly $350 million stadium contribution is electronic bingo.
“I play bingo once and a while, I’d try it,” Raimann said.
That too is having some growing pains.
“This system does not have electronic bingo on it. As far as I know the first system that was brought out has met up with some problems,” Minehart said.
While she may have her hesitations now,
“It’s a popular social thing, but it’s something that people do once a week.”
She said she will be ready to embrace it, and so will her customers.
“I’ll play both. I’ll play bingo and pulltabs,” Raimann said.
Minnesotans currently spend over $60 million a year on paper bingo, which leaders are hoping translates to the electronic version.
That is about six percent of the state charitable gambling revenues. Paper pulltabs make up most of the rest.