MPR analysis: Electronic pulltab numbers aren’t turning around

The March numbers are in for the state's electronic pulltab industry and a turnaround is nowhere in sight.

An MPR analysis shows that games did take in a record $2.4 million in bets, up from $1.9 million the month before, or about 24 percent. The state also added 29 new bars to its electronic charitable gambling roster, and turned on 138 new electronic pulltab machines. That made for 961 machines 196 sites up and running by Easter Sunday.

But for the second month, the rate of installation of new sites per day fell.

And, as in the other months since the rollout, the daily average of bets on those machines fell to a new record low. In March, according to data from the Minnestoa Gambling Control Board, the daily sales per machine in March was just $87.

That number is key: The state made its revenue estimates based on sales of $225 per day, per machine, when the Legislature approved the stadium law. But, the marginal value of adding new electronic pulltab machines is falling, and that "public acceptance around the state" that Gov. Mark Dayton talked about last week doesn't seem to be getting any closer.

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That said, there were some landmarks last month. Eight of the top 10 total amounts bet daily were in March, helped by a whopping $31,000 day on March 23rd at Mully's on Madison, in Mankato.

"We had a two six figure days during March, which I think was a good sign," said Jon Weaver, founder of Express Games. His iPad-based games took those bets at Mully's. "Those are outliers, and I don't want to go to a charity and say this is what you're going to do. Clearly those are exceptions. But what it shows to me is the earning potential of our games and system. We're going forward. We're not going backward."

Elsewhere, though, things weren't so good: half of the slowest days ever for electronic pulltabs, on a per-machine basis, were also last month.

This table shows a history of the daily sales results for electronic pulltabs, averaged over each month. The figures are calculated from data supplied by the game vendors. The number of devices reflect only the month end, maximum amount of devices.

Source: Minnesota Gambling Control Board data