It is clear that members of the Star Tribune Editorial Board were not present when the 2012 e-pulltab law was negotiated ("Don't squander e-pulltab success," May 14). In addition, the editorial's content suggests that the board must not have read the law that resulted.
As the former executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, and as someone who was part of those negotiations in 2012, I feel obliged to provide important context lacking in the editorial.
The intent of the 2012 law was clear at the time. Electronic pulltabs were to be mere facsimiles of paper games, required to be opened like paper games, and were specifically prohibited from "mimicking" video slot machines. These provisions were supported by all parties, including the state's charities and the bars.
Unfortunately, the "facsimiles" of paper pulltabs have morphed into games that look and play very much like handheld video slot machines. Some bars even urge customers to come to their "casino" and play games that "feel a little like slots." This is entirely contrary to the intent of the Legislature when it passed the 2012 law.
It is disingenuous for the editors to claim that lawmakers are now attempting to "change the deal." In fact, many lawmakers know the deal has already been changed and even broken by the failure of the Minnesota Gambling Control Board to ensure that games comply with the law.
For this reason, no one should be surprised that lawmakers are looking for a way to reaffirm and clarify the intent of the 2012 bill, uphold the Legislature's authority and honor the commitments they made to all stakeholders in 2012.
The editorial also mischaracterized an administrative law judge's ruling in saying that the judge "soundly rejected" the argument that games were growing too similar to slot machines. The ruling mainly confirmed that the Gambling Control Board properly followed its own administrative rules and procedures for approving new games. The judge did not rule on the overall legality of these slot-style games. Regardless, the Legislature is the appropriate body to bring clarity to this ongoing violation of law.
The editorial also amplifies the bogus claim that e-pulltabs will disappear if the current bill passes. Major e-pulltab vendors have confirmed they will develop replacement games before any change in law becomes effective. Players who prefer electronic games will continue to have that option. Paper pulltabs, which remain the preferred option overall, will continue unchanged. All pulltabs will continue to generate revenue for charities and the charities will continue to do great work in their local communities. The bars will continue to benefit, as they always have, from these activities.
As one of the participants in those 2012 negotiations, I know how carefully the Legislature considered the potential impacts that law would have on various gambling stakeholders in Minnesota. They should do the same today as they clarify the law, bring the illegal games into compliance and mitigate potential losses to the charities.
Compliance with state law and honoring the state's promises should never be optional nor should it be controversial. Apparently, the Star Tribune Editorial editors disagree.
John McCarthy is retired. He was executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association from 1987 to 2020.