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Electronic pull-tabs to see potential changes

Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 7:53 PM CDT
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WINDOM, Minn. (KEYC) — Pull-tabs has been a part of the bar experience in Minnesota for many years.

Over the last decade, the electronic pull-tabs have grown in popularity since lawmakers added them to bars to help pay for U.S. Bank Stadium.

The popular games evolved beyond a method of stadium funding. Now, some lawmakers are trying to change them back into what they originally were intended to be.

“It grew in the last eight or nine years to where we are today, and so it is designed to say that no this is what we passed in 2012 let’s make sure that we are following that,” Rep. Luke Frederick (DFL-Mankato) said.

The proposal would give gaming companies until September 2022 to develop new games that would more closely resemble paper pull-tabs, as originally intended by the introduction of e-tab games.

Supporters argue that current games are too similar to slot machines, which are only allowed on tribal lands.

Restaurant and bar owners use these games not only as a way to contribute to their own revenue, but also to donate to charities, which is something that was agreed upon in 2012.

As the e-tab games have changed, they’ve become a big draw at bars and restaurants.

“We get people that come in here specifically for those. They might get a burger, maybe a beverage or two, or maybe more,” said Clark Lingbeek, owner of Phat Pheasant Pub in Windom. “They bring in a lot of money to rural Minnesota that otherwise might not come into our charities. They have been really good to us.”

Critics of the bill say it would hurt bars, restaurants and gaming companies that are already suffering because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is a tough call, and right now, there has been so much uncertainty, especially with these charities and with these small businesses,” Rep. Keith Franke (R-St. Paul Park) said. “It is just one more worry and one more thing to be held over everyone’s head with all the stressors for everyone who is just trying to survive coming out of this pandemic.”

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