Minnesota sees rise in electronic pull-tab gambling sales

Published 6:44 am Tuesday, November 20, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS  — Annual sales of electronic pull-tabs in Minnesota rose 80 percent during the last fiscal year, generating $360 million, according to a new report by the Minnesota Gambling Control Board.

The rise in pull-tab sales comes after a lackluster debut six years ago, Minnesota Public Radio reported. Early game versions failed partly because there weren’t many machines and because players grew bored since the games didn’t change much. Interest grew after the original manufacturer folded and Pilot Games took over.

“I know we started rough in those early years, but now, when you look at the chart, it’s really climbing — and it’s still in less than 40 percent of all the charitable gaming sites in Minnesota,” Tom Barrett, executive director of gambling board, which oversees charitable, but not tribal, gaming in Minnesota.

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Paper pull-tab sales accounted for about 75 percent of the charitable gambling industry this year, down from about 82 percent of the market last year. But sales were still up 6.8 percent year over year, Barrett said.

“So, I don’t know if it’s a case of the players try the electronics, go to the paper, go to the electronics, back and forth. We expected to see somewhat of a drop in paper sales, and that’s not happening,” he said.

Funds from electronic pull-tabs were pledged to pay for the U.S. Bank Stadium. The increase in sales means the state may be able to pay off the mortgage early and save money that would’ve gone to interest payments.

“I think it’s 2022 or 2023 is the first year we could start paying (the construction bonds) off early,” said Myron Frans, commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Management and Budget. “We hope we’re careful about how we use those funds going forward.”

The board’s report found that charitable gambling overall topped $2 billion in sales for the first time, with $1.6 billion paid out in prizes.