Rollout of high-tech bingo games is delayed

First e-bingo game has not been certified as meeting state standards.

Minnesotans waiting for the rollout of electronic bingo games at bars and restaurants will need to wait at least another month as the Minnesota Gambling Control Board delayed approval Tuesday of the first game in the pipeline.

The electronic bingo games, along with electronic pulltabs, were approved by the Legislature last year to boost charitable gambling revenues to fund the new Minnesota Vikings stadium.

The first electronic “linked bingo” game — linking players at multiple locations — did not win board approval because it had not yet been certified as meeting state game standards, said Tom Barrett, executive director of the Gambling Control Board.

“I was hopeful we could have these games today,” Barrett said. “Am I hopeful for next month? Yes.”

The high-tech bingo games will have far bigger prizes than the video pulltab games that were launched in September, manufacturers say, and potentially could generate considerable revenue for the state.

Many charitable gambling managers predict e-bingo will be received well by customers, in particular those who haven’t been fans of the video pulltab games.

But before the bingo games can get up and running in the bars, the Gambling Control Board must license and approve the manufacturer, distributor and the games themselves.

E-tab Manufacturing, based in St. Paul, had hoped its bingo application would be approved by now, said Jim Landsem, managing partner for the company.

E-tab submitted its application package last summer for pulltabs and bingo, he said. In September, it gave the board its games and its gambling device, which plays pulltabs and bingo.

The board approved the pulltab games in December, Landsem said, and E-tab games are now in more than 50 bars and restaurants.

It’s now a matter of being able to turn on the bingo portion of the hand-held video device, he said. He hopes the game can be certified by the next Gambling Control Board meeting in March.

The e-bingo field will get more competition in the future. Another manufacturer, Electronic Games Solutions, based in St. Louis, also is hoping to roll out a bingo game soon, pending board approval.

A third e-bingo manufacturer, the California-based Planet Bingo, has its license pending board approval, Barrett said.

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511

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