Charitable gaming in Minnesota jumped by 10 percent in one year’s time, with north metro nonprofits — and cities that take a cut of the profit — again topping the list.
The Minnesota Gambling Control Board tallied $1.3 billion in gross receipts for the fiscal year spanning July 2014 to June 2015, according to its recently released annual report. That’s $238 for every man, woman and child living in the state.
Fiscal year 2016, which began in July, is looking even rosier. Electronic gambling brought in $8 million during the month of January alone, said Gary Danger, compliance officer with the Gambling Control Board.
“We are on pace for a 13 percent increase halfway into 2016,” Danger said. “There is a feeling the economy is getting a little better. Gas prices are down. Maybe there is more disposable income being used.”
Revenue from electronic gambling — pulltabs and other games played on tablets provided at bars and restaurants — also has climbed from $21 million to $33 million in a year, although it still only amounts to less than 3 percent of gross receipts.
“We are starting to see a surge within the last year and a half,” Danger said. “It goes hand in hand. We are hearing that people playing paper are also playing electronic.”
It’s the fifth year of strong gains after nearly a decade of declines that had some questioning whether younger generations were losing interest in pulltabs and other bar games.
Cities and suburbs, which can claim 10 percent of net profits under state law, also came out ahead. The two highest were Blaine, $113,442, and Roseville, $79,013. Minneapolis, the state’s largest city, was way down the list at $38,000.
How do cities spend that money? In Blaine, the City Council donated $50,000 to Alexandra House, a shelter for battered women. The city’s nonprofit Fourth of July festival received $35,000, and four food shelves received $30,000. Other beneficiaries included the Civil Air Patrol, Blaine Historical Society, and charities serving veterans’ families and the homeless.
Those are record amounts, said Blaine Finance Director Joe Huss, “even more than before the economic collapse.”
Charitable gaming includes bingo, meat raffles, tipboards and paddleboards as well as pulltabs — the most popular game by a long shot, accounting for 92 percent of gross receipts.
Statewide, 83 percent of all money collected by the 1,200 licensed charities was returned to players as prizes.
The north metro area continues to be a hot spot for charitable gambling. More than $125 million was collected in Anoka County alone.
Four of the top 10 grossing organizations in 2015 are in the northern suburbs, including Merrick Inc., Vadnais Heights, $15.4 million; Blaine Youth Hockey Association, $13.2 million; Centennial Youth Hockey Association, Circle Pines, and the Ramsey Lions Club, $11 million each.
The Shortstop Bar & Grill in Fridley was the highest grossing location in Anoka County, according to the annual report. Patrons there spent $5.3 million on charitable gaming, benefiting the Fridley Lions Club.
“Anoka County has always had a good [gaming] industry,” said Blaine Youth Hockey Gambling Manager Suzanne Slawson. “Our customers are great. … They always come back. This area really enjoys the paper pulltabs.”