Other’s opinion: Don’t pull the plug on e-pulltabs

Published 6:30 am Wednesday, May 19, 2021

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The Free Press, Mankato

A hastily-approved plan by the DFL-controlled House to eliminate electronic pulltab charitable gambling should be halted before it decimates the budgets of nonprofits across the state who support hundreds of good causes.

The House bill, HF 2366, was approved in committee and quickly blended into a larger bill that will now be negotiated in conference committee.

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The move comes at the behest of Indian tribes in the state who say the e-pulltabs work too much like slot machines and infringe on their exclusive rights to run such machines and casinos. While one can sympathize with that argument, an administrative law judge recently disagreed when the tribes filed a legal action, saying the two gambling devices are not similar.

Now the tribes are asking the Legislature to outlaw the e-pulltab games. That comes years after the tribes agreed to allow the e-pulltabs because they didn’t think they offered competition to the casino slot machines. The games started slow at first but now the technology has made the games easy, fun and popular.

But there’s more at stake than competition for gambling. Some 1,300 plus charities across the state use the e-pulltab money for everything from youth hockey, to the Lions Clubs, athletic scholarships, veterans’ services and lake cleanup efforts. Some $1.3 billion comes in from charitable gambling annually in Minnesota.

A fiscal note on the bill detailed the damage: Local charities would lose $33 million a year, wages would drop by $35 million statewide and local bars and restaurants would lose about $30 million. The e-pulltabs were also set up to help pay for the public cost of the Vikings stadium and that amounts to about $60 million a year.

Gov. Tim Walz and Democrats support the elimination of the e-pulltabs. They’re on the wrong side of this issue. The plan would not be implemented until next fall, when the hope is that the games could be redesigned to not mimic casino gambling. That’s an iffy proposition at best and carries too much risk of this funding going away completely, hurting charities and taxpayers.

It’s troubling this plan seems like it was rushed through. Many stakeholders haven’t had a chance to weigh in.

We urge legislators in the conference committee to cancel the plan to eliminate e-pulltabs.