Electronic Bingo Games Approved in Minnesota

On March 18th the Minnesota Gambling Control Board approved the first electronic bingo games linking players across Minnesota. The machines have jackpots of up to $75,000. The electronic bingo machines will provide a new source of funding for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium. The bingo games will join electronic pull tab games at bars and restaurants across the state. The state hopes the electronic games will attract a new type of e-gambling customer. Taxes on the games are supposed to generate the state’s $348 million share of the Vikings stadium. So far state revenues have fallen dramatically behind earlier predictions and forecasts.

Minnesota charity leaders say that while bingo won’t exactly rescue the new stadium they are happy there are new games to generate more money. Al Lund, executive director of Allied Charities of Minnesota, stated “It’s a good day. We’re tickled pink that we now have a linked bingo provider with a game and three [electronic] pulltab providers. Charities look forward to having a full package of electronics.” The games allow players at one location to play with other players at bars and restaurants using the same machines manufactures by the same company. The game jackpots are tied to the number of players in a game. For example if 100 machines are being played at $1 per machine the $40 prize would be split by the winner or winners. If 1,000 machines were in the game the jackpot would be $400.

10% of the sales are diverted to each of the progressive jackpots. The jackpots will max out at $2,500, $12,500 and $75,000. In Minnesota bingo accounts for slightly less than 10% of all charitable gaming in the state. Last year state officials predicted that 1,500 sites would install linked bingo games by the end of 2013 and 2,500 locations will offer electronic pull tab games. So far only 190 locations have the pull tab games. In November 2012 gambling officials were still predicting that the pull tab machines would generate $17.1 million for the stadium project. This month the figure was reduced to $1.9 million.

Many charities that held off on the pull tab games say they are waiting to see how the electronic bingo machines perform. E-Tab Manufacturing, the St. Paul-based company producing the bingo games, remains optimistic that the games will be popular with Minnesota residents. Jim Welbourn, E-Tab operations director told reporters “You’ll hear people yelling at the bar. People can pool their money and share the pot. And the jackpots will be sizable.” The Gambling Control Board approved a third pull tab machine and the new devices will play electronic bingo and pull tab games. The state has a long way to go before they raise their share for the stadiums construction.