The Minnesota Gambling Control Board approved electronic pull-tab gambling this morning. A new iPad-based version of the tradtional pull-tab games could start today at bars and restaurants that run charitable gambling.
Nevada gambling entrepreneur John Acres' company makes the games. He says they will spread across the country.
"Minnesota will be the first to go live. Virginia passed their legislation before Minnesota did. But Minnesota got it done first. And this is the start of the future. I believe we will see this kind of gaming in 20, maybe 30 other states within the next five or six years. Minnesota is absolutely the leader, and this is the start of a brand new industry," he said.
The gambling could start in as many as five locations overall by the end of the day. State officials say 2,800 bars and restaurants in Minnesota could be eligible for the games this year.
The state is expecting the games to bring in as much as $72 million in new revenue. That money will be used to pay the debt on the state's share of a new $1 billion stadium being built for the Vikings in Minneapolis. The state has pledged about $350 million to the construction.
For their part, charities are hoping the games will revive a flagging pull-tab and bingo industry. Charitable gambling has seen a steady decline for the last 10 years, dropping from a high of nearly $1.5 billion in 2000, and down by more than a third from that high in 2010. Gambling managers think electronic versions of their games will attract new and younger players to their operations and eventually let them join games electronically, for high-stakes bingo and other variations.
Dan O'Gara, the owner of O'Gara's Bar and Grill in St. Paul, said earlier that he hopes to turn on the first game at his bar on Snelling Avenue at 4 p.m., in time for happy hour crowds.