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Published May 28 2012

Moorhead-area gaming sites say patrons’ ages will dictate interest in electronic pulltabs, bingo to pay for Vikings stadium

MOORHEAD – The forthcoming arrival of electronic pulltabs and bingo games in Minnesota could either fly or fail in Moorhead, say some local business owners and gaming officials.

State legislators are banking on extra tax revenue from charitable gambling to help pay for the new $975 million Vikings stadium, and officials say revenue from electronic pulltabs and bingo games could help achieve that.

In contrast to the manual games currently offered in Minnesota, electronic pulltabs and bingo games will utilize interactive, tablet-like devices.

Legislative leaders hope the alternative will attract new, younger gamblers and, consequently, boost charitable income and state tax revenues.

The technology is not yet available in Minnesota, but state officials hope to integrate the electronic games within the next year.

Some Moorhead-area businesses are excited for the new gaming option, while others were apathetic. The contrast seems to lie in the targeted age demographic of individual establishments that offer pulltabs and bingo games.

“Electronic pulltabs are something of the future,” said Dennis Beckerleg, gaming manager at the American Legion Post 21 in Moorhead. “I don’t see a 75-year-old vet playing them as much as a 25- to 30-year-old.”

Beckerleg said the Legion post likely won’t acquire the electronic games since “we’re happy with what we have.”

“We’ll still have our pulltabs, the old tabs,” he said. “We’re able to take care of our programs with what we have.”

Dan Hunt, gaming manager at the Dilworth VFW, said he isn’t sure how the electronic gaming will affect his club, but he said the technology will likely find its way to Dilworth.

Meanwhile, business owner Matt Oothoudt has a promising outlook for how the electronic gaming devices will be received at his restaurants.

“Along the border towns, like Moorhead, I think it’ll help us get more patrons,” said Oothoudt, who owns J.C. Chumley’s and Mick’s Office, both in Moorhead.

“As we go forward in time, I’ve noticed more of our customers become entertainment-driven and they like things to do,” Oothoudt said. “We’re excited for it. It’ll offer people something to do and maybe help people cross to this side of the river for once.”

The Moorhead Youth Hockey Association is one of the largest pulltab beneficiaries in Minnesota, with $4.8 million in annual pulltab receipts and $216,000 in pulltab profits.

Nearly a dozen bars and restaurants in Clay County help sponsor gaming sites for the association, including Chumley’s and Mick’s.

Minnesota lawmakers approved the Vikings stadium deal based on projections that showed annual tax collections from pull-tabs and bingo would more than double – from $37 million to almost $95 million – once the electronic games are fully implemented by mid-2013.

The new technology is projected to push up total wagering from almost $1 billion to $2.3 billion.

The new tax revenue will cover debt service on the state’s $348 million contribution to a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis at the current site of the Metrodome, the NFL team’s current home.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541

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