E-bingo designed to fund Vikings stadium hits technical glitch

Malfunctioning games have been sent back to the lab for testing.

The first electronic bingo games aimed at helping to fund the Vikings stadium have hit a technical glitch and will be shut down until the problem is fixed, according to a report at the Minnesota’s Gambling Control Board meeting Monday.

The e-bingo games were being tested in a half dozen bars and restaurants. But the screen on the device sometimes displayed a random image when a new player logged on, so the games were pulled and sent back to the testing laboratory, said John Burger, spokesman for e-tab Manufacturing, the St. Paul-based company producing the games.

“After being in the field, we realized there were a couple changes we could make to enhance the player’s experience,” said Burger. “We hope to be out later this week.”

Meanwhile, a second e-bingo manufacturer, the St. Louis-based Electronic Game Solutions, is still testing the game it had planned to roll out this month, said Tom Barrett, executive director of the board.

Electronic linked bingo, which allows players at multiple locations to play against one another, is the second leg of the electronic video games introduced to help fund the state’s $348 million share of the stadium.

While paper pulltabs account for more than 90 percent of all charitable gambling in Minnesota, sales of paper bingo still reach $62 million a year, according to the gambling control board. Many charities that oversee gambling have been monitoring the electronic version with interest.

The electronic pulltabs sales have fallen dramatically short of projections for funding the Vikings stadium. But Burger, and many charities, believe the bingo games — with $1,000-plus jackpots — could catch on.

“We think linked bingo is the driver,” said Burger.

E-tab Manufacturing has its devices in about 90 sites. The company will roll out the games after they are reconfigured, said Burger.

Weak sales of electronic pulltabs, as well as questions about the origins of the sales projections used in creating the Vikings stadium funding formula, have prompted lawmakers to scramble to find other sources of funding for the Vikings stadium.

The gambling control board did not discuss those issues Monday.

 

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511

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