Jackpot: Once-Dismal Electronic Pulltabs Are a Hit
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota took a gamble and lost in 2012 when it launched electronic pulltabs as a novel way to pay for the $1.1 billion Minnesota Vikings stadium — the promised stream of millions in revenue that one lawmaker repeatedly derided as "fairies and foo-foo dust" was indeed more of a trickle.
Years later, e-pulltabs are starting to look like a smarter bet. Sales of the tablet-based games are roaring, and the state is reaping the rewards.
At bars and restaurants across the state, Minnesotans are now buying more than $35 million in e-pulltabs every month — more than was sold in all of 2015 — and sales are up 500 percent in the last two years alone, according to data from the Gambling Control Board. State regulators say they're on track to sell more than $325 million in e-pulltabs this year.
Once written off, the unexpected surge has helped power Minnesota's charitable gambling into a nearly $2 billion industry, putting extra money in the state's stadium account that is suddenly poised to overflow in the coming years.
Minnesota was among the first states in the nation to sell electronic pulltabs, a modern twist on the tear-off paper tabs that are a fixture at small-town bars and suburban watering holes. A handful of states followed, though some have retreated since. Idaho tried banning the games last year, and North Dakota regulators tried to limit the amount of machines and payouts through rule-setting earlier this month.