Nine-city road show tour hopes to give e-gambling a jump-start

Nine-city road show tries to put bars, charities at ease.

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Bar owner Mike Ronning, left, and bartender Tim Sorby tried out an electronic pulltab game with vendor Spanky Kuhlman, in back.

Photo: RICHARD TSONG-TAATARII • tsong-taatarii@startribune.com,

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A campaign to sell e-gambling to a skeptical state takes off this week as an electronic gambling road show hits the highway for a nine-city tour.

In Duluth on Tuesday night, about 35 charities and bar owners showed up for a chance to test-drive all the electronic pulltab and bingo games now available in Minnesota. They got tips from charitable gambling leaders and bars along the North Shore who use them. They received the latest data from state officials on Minnesota’s most popular e-gambling counties, the effect on charity collections and more.

“I’ve seen the machines before, but I’ve never tried them,” said Duluth bar owner Mike Ronning, checking out the electronic pulltabs. “It’s fun. I just don’t know if it’s right for my place.”

That ambivalence among bar owners and their charities prompted the first such tour in the state. Al Lund, executive director of Allied Charities of Minnesota, which organized the road show, said he’s discovered a lot of misconceptions about the e-games. He called the meetings for bar owners and charities to resolve them.

Problems include misperceptions over state regulations, time needed to sell the games and where e-gambling taxes go.

“There’s a misconception about how the stadium is being funded,” Lund said at the Dry Dock Bar in Duluth.

For example, all charitable gambling taxes, from electronic and paper games, contribute to the state general fund and the Vikings stadium.

Some folks, Lund admits, want nothing to do with stadium funding. Charities also worry that stadium funding is taking away from their own budgets, “which isn’t true.”

Charities that adopted e-gambling have actually grown faster than charities that didn’t, Bim Yang, an auditor at the Minnesota Department of Revenue, told the group. Charities embracing e-gambling saw a 23 percent increase in gross receipts, compared with 2.5 percent others, she said.

Obstacles remain

The folks who signed in at the event’s registration table came from a cross section of charities: the Duluth Curling Club, Willow River Commercial Club, Virginia Elks Lodge, Camp Chicagami in Eveleth.

“Don’t forget to take your red ticket,” the woman at the sign-up table reminded them. “We’ll do a drawing at the end of the night for an autographed football and autographed Vikings photo.”

As participants checked out the electronic games, talked to their vendors and munched on pizza, Lund announced, “Our hope is by the end of the night, any questions you have will have been answered.”

Ross Ferrell and Curt Oberg, owners of Roscoe’s Pioneer Bar in Duluth, were among those in the crowd. They said they were curious about the games. But they had questions.

“I want to know how this will affect my bartenders,” Farrell said. “If someone plays, how much time does that take away from my bartenders?

“And can we shut these down if we’re really busy?”

‘It’s gotta be simple’

  • related content

  • Graphic: Electronic gambling across Minnesota

    Wednesday June 12, 2013

    Electronic pulltab gross sales, fiscal year 2013 through March

  • At the Dry Dock Bar in Duluth, Michelle Tomling of Hibbing wanted to try out 3 Diamond’s e-pulltab games because, as a gambling manager for AMVETS Post 12, she is not allowed to play them with her patrons.

  • Allied Charities of Minnesota is using the tour to showcase games, including this one from Express Games, and address misconceptions.

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