Vikings stadium funding plan relies on bars' culture, marketing and 'whales'

The plan for funding the Vikings stadium relies on finding a formula to help electronic gambling succeed.

hide

Randy Langenenks played an electronic pulltab game at Porky’s, a small St. Paul bar that consistently ranks in the Top 10 in the sale of e-pulltabs in Minnesota.

Photo: KYNDELL HARKNESS • kyndell.harkness@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Head to Porky’s and Wild Onion to play electronic pulltab games and you’ll see how the state’s plan to help fund the Minnesota Vikings stadium can work or fail.

At Wild Onion, located on St. Paul’s trendy Grand Avenue, the games are hidden below the bar. No posters or tabletop advertisements tout them. Hardly a soul plays. April gross sales: $47.

Outside Porky’s, a tiny blue-collar bar on the East Side of St. Paul, a huge banner yells “Electronic Pulltabs Available Here.” Inside, the bar owners promote the games. Customers know the ropes and play. April sales: $57,000.

When a legislative committee heard there were pulltab success stories, lawmakers asked, “What’s their secret?’ ” Figuring out what works, and what doesn’t, is now a priority for charities and the state.

Electronic games run by charities are slated to drive the state’s $348 million share of the Vikings stadium. But the initial $35 million revenue projection for this year was slashed to $1.7 million in part because of paltry sales.

Although Gov. Mark Dayton last week announced a “secure” backup funding source is in the works, e-gaming is still a top priority, his staff said.

Minnesota gambling leaders say there is no magic formula. But key ingredients that help spike sales — and taxes for the stadium — are advertising, location, “gambling culture,’’ owner buy-in and the presence of “whales” — big gamblers.

“You need a nucleus of five or more people who play all the time, and who can afford to play,” said Mark Healey, gambling manager at Community Charities of Minnesota, which sells e-games at 13 sites.

Customers need to see other people playing, and winning, he said.

“Then there’s talk in the town, ‘I won $500 playing those electronic games,’ ” he said. “That’s what it takes.”

Minnesotans spent $2.1 million on e-games in April, $300,000 less than in March, according to the Minnesota Gambling Control Board. Eighty-five percent of the sales go back to the players as prizes. Not a penny goes to the stadium until $34 million in taxes have been paid by charities — from all forms of gambling.

Average gross sales at the roughly 200 sites with the games was $339 per day in April; average net was $54.

Walk into the Wild Onion on a Saturday night and see the problem that Minnesota will need to fix.

A couple eating dinner asked their waitress for a game. The waitress, courteous but busy, said she’d return shortly. After five minutes, the couple flagged her down again. She said she had to call a manager.

The manager arrived shortly, requested a driver’s license and cash to play, and showed the couple a half-dozen games. When he returned to pick up the iPad, he remarked: “I’ve never seen anyone make more than $1.80 on this.”

A similarly lackluster scene played out at Champps in St. Paul, which sold $3,486 in e-games last month. As the sports bar/restaurant filled with diners, there was no clue that four e-games were tucked behind the shiny wooden bar. When asked about the games, the manager said the games’ Internet connection went down earlier. Besides, most customers would be watching a boxing match that night.

Javier Cordon and Destiny Smith were among the folks nursing a drink near the bar.

“I think people would play if they knew they were here,” said Smith. “People want something to keep their hands busy.’’

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets 8 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Yankees 1
Detroit 5 FINAL
Baltimore 4
Toronto 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Cincinnati 2 FINAL
Cleveland 4
San Diego 3 FINAL
Seattle 4
Chicago WSox 6 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Kansas City 13 FINAL
Texas 2
Oakland 9 FINAL
San Francisco 2
Wisc-Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Milwaukee 8
Arizona 6 FINAL
Colorado 3
Univ of Minnesota 1 FINAL
Minnesota 3
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 105
Phoenix 105 FINAL
Orlando 100
Cleveland 120 FINAL
Toronto 112
Utah 84 FINAL
Boston 85
Charlotte 115 FINAL
Brooklyn 91
Denver 100 FINAL
Minnesota 85
Detroit 85 FINAL
New Orleans 88
LA Lakers 94 FINAL
Miami 100
Philadelphia 118 FINAL
Oklahoma City 123
Memphis 102 FINAL
Houston 100
Sacramento 85 FINAL
San Antonio 112
Milwaukee 93 FINAL
Golden State 102
Portland 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 93
Ottawa 3 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
NY Rangers 1 FINAL(OT)
Detroit 2
Pittsburgh 1 FINAL
Colorado 3
Montreal 1 FINAL
Anaheim 3
Longwood 65 FINAL
Presbyterian 61
Campbell 64 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 72
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 80
Ohio State 77 FINAL
Penn State 67
Maine 66 FINAL
Albany 83
Duquesne 81 FINAL
Fordham 66
George Washington 67 FINAL
George Mason 51
Tennessee 78 FINAL
LSU 63
Notre Dame 71 FINAL
Louisville 59
SE Missouri St 74 FINAL
Morehead State 79
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Mount St Marys 58
Hartford 63 FINAL
New Hampshire 67
Wagner 68 FINAL
Robert Morris 91
Long Island 70 FINAL
St Francis-NY 79
La Salle 50 FINAL
Saint Josephs 55
Providence 79 FINAL
Seton Hall 66
UCF 45 FINAL
South Florida 74
Binghamton 57 FINAL
Stony Brook 62
UMBC 39 FINAL
Vermont 66
Sacred Heart 85 FINAL
Bryant 91
Richmond 56 FINAL
Massachusetts 53
Wake Forest 51 FINAL
Duke 94
Purdue 66 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Miami-Florida 67 FINAL
Pittsburgh 63
St Bonaventure 64 FINAL
Saint Louis 48
New Mexico St 69 FINAL
TX-Pan American 48
Houston 68 FINAL
Tulane 63
Howard 62 FINAL
NJIT 71
TCU 70 FINAL
Oklahoma State 82
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
Tulsa 47
USC 74 FINAL
UCLA 85
Miss State 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Utah State 53 FINAL
Wyoming 76
St Johns 67 FINAL
Marquette 51
SIU Edwardsville 66 FINAL
Eastern Ill 78
Air Force 66 FINAL
Fresno State 68
Nebraska 57 FINAL
Illinois 69
Colorado State 78 FINAL
Nevada 62
Boise State 68 FINAL
San Jose St 51
San Diego St 60 FINAL
UNLV 58
Oregon 65 FINAL
Oregon State 62
UC Santa Barbara 98 FINAL
Hawaii 90
Toledo 64 FINAL
Northern Ill 68
Wake Forest 69 FINAL
Boston College 53
Eastern Illinois 35 FINAL
UT Martin 68
Austin Peay 69 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 72
Virginia Tech 57 FINAL
NC State 56
Massachusetts 55 FINAL
St Bonaventure 49
Auburn 71 FINAL
Florida 49
Penn State 63 FINAL
Indiana 68
Clemson 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Davidson 63 FINAL
La Salle 74
Loyola-Maryland 46 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Boston U 48 FINAL
Colgate 58
Coll of Charleston 58 FINAL
James Madison 107
Delaware 76 FINAL
Elon 77
Drexel 58 FINAL
Northeastern 42
Hofstra 75 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 76
Towson 56 FINAL
William & Mary 68
Miami-Ohio 55 FINAL
Akron 67
Ball State 85 FINAL
Central Michigan 69
Buffalo 55 FINAL
Bowling Green 47
Western Mich 65 FINAL
Eastern Michigan 74
Ohio U 69 FINAL
Kent State 56
Youngstown St 62 FINAL
Cleveland State 73
Illinois-Chicago 54 FINAL
Wright State 74
Alabama 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Detroit 60 FINAL
Milwaukee 56
Purdue 58 FINAL
Wisconsin 56
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close