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Continued: Minnesota bets on e-bingo to fund Vikings stadium

Playing e-bingo

The e-bingo games are about the size of a hardcover book, with handles on the sides. Players load money into the devices at the gambling booth, then head to their tables. The games try to mimic some of the tried-and-true attractions to bingo, such as offering players options for the color and shape of their online “blotters.’’

Nesser, sitting with her husband, Tymm Nesser, sipped a beer while watching the screen. She had chosen to play six games, so her screen was divided into six grids. Bingo numbers were silently called on the screen, and the bingo boards filled. Because there were only two people playing — as opposed to dozens or hundreds expected down the road — the “prize” was a whopping 80 cents.

Ultimately her friend raised her arms in the air in mock triumph. “I don’t know if I should quit my day job or not,” joked winner Wendy Hedges, also of Blaine.

“Build that stadium!” yelled someone at a nearby table.

Hedges, who plays paper bingo every Monday night, envisions paper-bingo fans playing both games simultaneously.

“This [device] does everything for you: You don’t have to pay attention,” she said.

Challenges ahead

During this start-up period, at least, e-bingo may face some challenges.

• Technology. The games rely on brand-new technology and gaming devices. E-tabs, for example, ran into network problems when it tested its games several weeks ago. It sent the gaming devices back to the testing lab, where the glitch was fixed.

• Critical mass. To attract new players with the allure of a megajackpot, it needs a lot of players. For example, if 100 machines are being played at $1 each, a $40 prize would be split by the winners. If 1,000 machines were in play, the regular prize would hit $400. In each case, a certain percentage of the wins would be sent to progressive jackpots.

• Competition. Although there are about 2,700 gambling locations in Minnesota, including about 200 with electronic pulltabs to date, players can play only with folks using the same bingo device, made by the same manufacturer.

• How-to help for players. The games aren’t tough, but “more education would be helpful,” said Nesser.

None of that dampens the enthusiasm of Michelle Lange, gambling manager for Coon Rapids Youth Hockey. She brought e-pulltabs to CR’s Sports Bar in Coon Rapids the first day they went live in September. She did the same with e-bingo last week.

“I had my bingo callers announce it,” said Lange. “I had purchased Piggies From Heaven T-shirts for my workers. I think people will love this.”

Brausen simply hopes e-bingo will generate new funds for her charity. She added: “And if the Vikings stadium gets built with it, that’s a bonus.”

 

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511

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  • Rona Nesser, of Blaine played electronic bingo at the Blainebrook Entertainment Center in Blaine on Thursday. ] CARLOS GONZALEZ cgonzalez@startribune.com March 27, 2013, Blaine, Minn., The Blainebrook Entertainment Center is one of the two or three test sites for the new electronic linked bingo games. Electronic linked bingo, the second leg of Minnesota's plan to fund the Minnesota Vikings stadium, is expected to begin rolling out at bars and restaurants this week.

  • “I think this could really take off,” Rona Nesser said of the electronic bingo game she tried at Blainbrook Bowl in Blaine.

  • Rona Nesser helped Wendy Hedges play on an electronic bingo tablet at the Blainebrook Entertainment Center in Blaine on Thursday. Nesser had learned to use the device earlier and was assisting her friend. ] CARLOS GONZALEZ cgonzalez@startribune.com March 27, 2013, Blaine, Minn., The Blainebrook Entertainment Center is one of the two or three test sites for the new electronic linked bingo games. Electronic linked bingo, the second leg of Minnesota's plan to fund the Minnesota Vikings stadium, is expected to begin rolling out at bars and restaurants this week.

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