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Minnesota Residents Brace For Gambling Expansion

Minnesota lawmakers finally passed legislation earlier this month that will allow funding for a new Vikings stadium. The plan, however, is being met with resistance from some residents that believe the estimates are higher than what will become reality.

The plan that was passed by lawmakers calls for pull-tab and bingo expansion in bars throughout the state. The early estimates are that the popular form of gambling will bring nearly $100 million annually in tax revenue. That figure is much higher than the current revenue of $37 million annually.

Overall, the gaming industry in Minnesota accounts for about $1 billion annually. That figure is estimated to grow to $2.3 billion after the gambling expansion, which is set to begin this Fall. Not everyone is convinced those figures are attainable.

"I'd be shocked if it was successful," said Roger Richter, in charge of charitable gambling group Burnsville Lions Club. "I don't think it's ever going to make the money that everybody thinks it's going to make."

Most states have been shying away from electronic bingo machines. Dozens of states have outlawed the activity, but Minnesota is embracing the possible gaming tax revenue that the machines could bring.

Alabama went as far a couple of years ago as to create a Task Force on Illegal Gambling that's sole purpose was to seek out and shut down establishments offering electronic bingo machines. There have been mixed opinions in Alabama as to the legality of the machines, but in Minnesota, that line has been clearly drawn. Lawmakers are giving the green light to bars and restaurants to operate the machines.

Currently, the paper version of the pull-tabs have been selling well, but none of the vendors that offer the pull-tabs know what the reaction will be to the new electronic form of the popular game.

"We have an extraordinarily large market i the current paper products," said Mary Magnuson, Attorney for the National Association of Fundraising Ticket Manufacturers. "And whether the electronic format of that game will prove to be as popular or more popular will just remain to be seen."

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