Stadium funding source likely to kick in soon

Minnesota's new electronic pull-tab games, a funding source for the new Vikings stadium, will likely be available soon.

The electronic games of chance that the Minnesota Legislature authorized to help pay for construction of a new Vikings stadium could be in the hands of some Minnesota gamblers in less than two weeks.

The Gambling Control Board is expected to vote Sept. 18 on final approval for an initial game, "Treasures of the Jungle." The board's executive director, Tom Barrett, told Minnesota Public Radio News that he thinks it stands a good chance of getting approval.

Games could be available in several bars and restaurants within hours of that vote.

Las Vegas-based gambling company Acres 4.0 is loading the pull-tab and bingo games on modified iPads that will be available in establishments where charitable groups operate betting games. The company's owner, John Acres, said three initial locations are likely but he would not reveal them.

Tax proceeds from the electronic games are covering the state's $348 million share of construction on a new, $975 million stadium. Current pull-tab sales need to more than double, to more than $2 billion a year, to meet state revenue projections for the debt service needed to pay off stadium construction bonds. Many charities that run the lawful gambling were lukewarm to the idea, questioning if electronic versions of the games would really bring in that many more customers or gambling activity.

Ray Bohn, spokesman for gambling operators trade group Allied Charities of Minnesota, said charities are waiting to see the cut that suppliers like Acres 4.0 want from the games, whether enough suppliers get into the business to offer competitive prices, and whether the popularity of electronic games will be worth the extra taxes they might accrue.

"That's a big barrier for a lot of folks," Bohn said. "And I think what they're waiting for at this point is they're waiting for those cost factors in terms of what these machines, what it's going to cost to operate them, and whether they can make that work within the context of the taxes they pay and their other expenses."

So far, eight other makers have also indicated they might submit games for approval. In all, more than 2,500 bars and restaurants across Minnesota could be eligible to offer the games.

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