MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Unexpected changes are in store for electronic pulltab gambling in Minnesota, which never generated the revenue lawmakers anticipated as a funding source for a new Minnesota Viking stadium.
The largest company distributing the iPad games to about 120 bars and other venues in Minnesota, Express Games, will cease operations at the end of the month. The charities that run the games have been notified of the change and were encouraged to sign on with Express Games' founder Jon Weaver and his new company, Pilot Games.
Gambling leaders said the changes are the result of declining interest in the electronic games and a lawsuit between Express Games and a competitor, Acres 4.0. Acres CEO John Acres said his company is shifting focus to casino activities.
The changes came with little notice to the public or charities, the Star Tribune reported (http://strib.mn/1omwvFR ).
"I didn't know things would be happening so fast," said Michelle Lange, gambling manager for the Coon Rapids Youth Hockey Association.
Tom Barrett, executive director of the Minnesota Gambling Control Board, noted that the board had just approved a manufacturer's license for Pilot Games on Monday.
"We were surprised at the abruptness of the discontinuance," Barrett said. "Charities have called in and asked, 'What do we do?'?"
Weaver told the newspaper that Pilot Games has developed "the next generation of electronics" and will develop new marketing tools.
In the last fiscal year, Minnesota residents spent $21 million playing the electronic games, according to the Gambling Control Board. About 85 percent was returned to players as prizes.
The games were supposed to generate much more than that in tax revenue alone for the Vikings stadium financing. But disappointing early returns caused lawmakers to replace that funding stream with a more reliable one.
Al Lund, executive director of Allied Charities of Minnesota, said despite the rough start, he's heartened that electronic gambling investors are still looking at Minnesota.
"At some point, someone will figure out how to do this so charities can make money, and the state can make money," Lund said.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com