Let public decide on e-tabs [UPDATED]Published 7:10am Monday, April 1, 2013 Updated 9:13am Monday, April 1, 2013
When the Legislature passed the Vikings’ $348 million stadium financing bill in May 2012, e-pulltabs was intended to be the magic revenue producer. Essentially, bars would have iPads available to patrons, who can then play pulltabs for money.
As both newspaper editor and a player, I have been waiting in modest anticipation for these e-pulltabs to be available in Fergus Falls.
I thought it would be cool to get a photo of someone at a local establishment swiping an iPad to “rip” off the pulltabs, maybe next to someone ripping the real pulltabs.
As someone who received a generous gift of an iPad for Christmas from my parents (yes, it is a gift I have definitely been using and is not collecting dust), I have an interest in high-tech devices.
E-pulltabs, I figure, would be sort of like the electronic games you play at the casino.
Nearly 11 months have passed, and we’re still waiting for those e-pulltabs in Fergus Falls.
It should come as no surprise that the e-pulltab revenue that was supposed to fund the stadium is coming up a Grand Canyon short of estimates.
Stories out of the Twin Cities media have suggested that e-pulltabs just aren’t popular to play, that they aren’t as fun as the real thing.
Of course, unless someone in Fergus Falls traveled the three hours to find a Twin Cities bar, no one around here would know what it’s like to play them.
According to a recent story, there are only 200 bars around Minnesota that have e-pulltabs.
The Legislature projected 2,500 by this time.
As to why they aren’t available in Fergus Falls yet, local charitable gambling managers essentially say the Minnesota Gambling Control Board is to blame.
From what The Journal has been told, the company that sells paper pulltab games to the local establishments has applied to become an e-pulltab vendor, but the Gambling Control Board had not yet approved the company, or at least we had not found out about it yet.
While there clearly are companies in Minnesota that are approved to sell e-pulltab games, it’s only logical the local gambling managers would want to be loyal to their long-time vendors.
There certainly are other concerns, of course.
For one, why would a charitable organization — the Fergus Falls Hockey Association or the American Legion, for example — want to offer e-pulltabs if it essentially means diverting funds for their own cause to fund the Vikings stadium?
From what I understood, the Legislature had worked out a deal with lobbyists for state charitable organizations that operate pulltabs. At the least, they’ve done a poor job of explaining what that deal is, and how charitable organizations can actually benefit.
As a person who manages advertising sales, I can tell you that the best way to sell advertising is to meet with potential advertisers in person, explain the benefits of the products they can advertise in, and answer questions and concerns about the products.
Advertising, in other words, doesn’t magically sell itself.
When it comes to e-pulltabs, as far as I can tell, no one has yet to even attempt to sell the concept — explain how the games work and how it will benefit the charity, and answer concerns — to those who run paper pulltabs at our local establishments.
Clearly, the Legislature didn’t count on the fact that government bureaucracy would slow the expansion of e-pulltabs like an anchor in a weed patch.
Ultimately, e-pulltabs may not be popular. But before the Legislature can declare it a failure, maybe it would be a good idea to give Minnesotans a chance to play them first.
If a member of the Gambling Control Board feels I’m completely in the wrong about this, please, by all means explain it to me. I check my email a lot.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s publisher. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org