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Reality Check: Pull Tabs Equal Money For Stadium

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Stadium supporters promise a windfall from electronic pull tabs and bingo, but there’s not a lot of evidence to support that.

The state Department of Revenue estimates Minnesota could bring in $72 million a year, assuming 4,000 machines at 1,500 locations, including 1,500 bingo machines and 2,500 pull tab machines.

Officials estimate between $90 and $225 each in gross receipts per day and $33.75 in net receipts, per day, but many are skeptical.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers is not convinced the pull tabs will bring in as much as people claim, and he’s worried charitable groups will lose funding.

“Those charities purchase ice time, they buy defibrillators, they help fund fire trucks,” said Zellers, a Republican who has not clearly stated whether he supports or opposes a Vikings stadium.

“I mean, that’s what that money is supposed to be going for,” he said.

In fact, charitable gaming money goes to hundreds of local groups, from youth hockey to local fire stations. In the last decade, that money has steeply declined.

What you need to know is charitable gaming receipts are down 32 percent from $1.3 billion in 2002 to $887 million in 2010.

However, stadium supporters believe electronic gaming machines will help increase participation, especially among younger Minnesotans.

In addition to more tax revenue, stadium supporters believe a “modernized” online gaming system will generate $53 million more for charities and $28 million more for small business owners annually.

But it’s difficult to verify how much money would come from electronic pull tab machines, since there are few of the machines actually in operation.

Virginia installed some machines this year and Idaho has a pilot project. Florida has similar machines, called “adult entertainment amusement machines,” but the state doesn’t regulate them or collect data. The political reality: Electronic pull tabs secure the most votes.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said it has the most resistance to legal challenges that might otherwise slow the Vikings stadium project down.

“As far as we know so far, there won’t be any lawsuits questioning our ability to expand this form of charitable gaming,” said Dayton.

Here are the sources used for this reality check:

Department of Revenue Estimates Electronic Gaming Proceeds
Minnesota Charitable Gaming Revenues
MN History of Charitable Gaming
Gaming Developments in 50 States
Vikings Stadium Deal Terms
Gambling Control Board

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