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Officials, Lawmakers Respond To Pull Tab Remarks

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(credit: CBS) Esme Murphy
Esme Murphy, a reporter and Sunday morning anchor for WCCO-TV, h...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Funding has always been a crucial part of the debate for a new Vikings stadium.

The House cut the state’s share of the funding down to $293 million, which is planned to be paid for by electronic pull tabs. But that part of the proposal remains controversial.

Towards the end of Monday night’s debate, Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R-Anoka) argued that Iowa is the only place to try electronic pull tabs, and it failed.

“Where do they have electronic pull tabs today? Nowhere,” he said.

Hackbarth argued that the problems Iowa had with electronic pull tabs should lead Minnesotans to oppose them.

On Tuesday, however, officials in both Minnesota and Iowa took issue with Hackbarth’s conclusions.

First, they said electronic pull tabs (or Touchplay, as they were called in Iowa) were enormously profitable for the state. Secondly, they said Touchplay is dramatically different than what’s being proposed in Minnesota.

Mary Neubauer, the vice president of the Iowa Lottery, said in 10 months between 2005 and 2006 the machines generated $29 million for Iowa.

“The machines were very successful financially for the state but they were very controversial,” she said.

Iowa’s 3,000 machines, which resemble traditional slot machines, were installed everywhere from convenience stores to beauty salons and coffee shops. But they were popular with and easily accessed by minors. In response, the Iowa Legislature banned the machines in 2006.

Tom Barrett, the executive director of the Minnesota Gambling Control Board, said “what happened in Iowa is not what is being proposed in Minnesota.”

He said his numbers show that electronic pull tabs played on an iPad-sized tablet will deliver between $36 million to $59 million a year for the Vikings stadium. But he acknowledges these are just projections for a system that has never been tested.

“Nowhere…is what we are proposing in Minnesota in play elsewhere,” he said.

However, gambling venues in Florida, Mississippi and Idaho are currently using electronic pull tab machines similar to the ones proposed for Minnesota.

The state of Virginia will be rolling out electronic pull tabs in bingo halls and social clubs next year.

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