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Two establishments in west central Minn. have new e-gambling option

Rick Schueller, general manager the Kandi Entertainment Center in Willmar, holds one of the new electronic pull-tab games, also shown above. A portion of the tax revenues from the new form of gambling will go toward paying for the Vikings stadium. (Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange)2 / 2

WILLMAR — Rick Schueller picked up one of the four iPads stacked neatly on the shelf behind the bar of the Kandi Entertainment Center and in less than a minute he had it fired it up and logged into the electronic pull-tab program.

He took a dollar bill from a patron who lightly touched the iPad screen to select one of the seven gaming options.

With a background of music, sound effects, animation and colorful graphics another quick touch to the iPad revealed the outcome.


Game over.

Hopefully that won’t be the same scenario for the state, which had counted on the new electronic pull-tabs to generate enough revenue to help pay their share of the new Vikings football stadium.

A legislative report this week showed the revenues falling woefully short of expectations.

That lackluster statewide response is mirrored somewhat by local gamblers who only have two locations in the region — the KEC in Willmar and Brother’s Bar in Belgrade. The next closest electronic pull-tabs are in Alexandria and St. Cloud.

The state expects to have 2,500 sites by July 1. So far there are only 118.

Service clubs, which tend to attract an older crowd, are being a little cautious about requesting the electronic pull-tabs, said Mark Healy, gambling manager for Community Charities, which raises funds for local charities through traditional and electronic pull-tabs.

Other than the slow rollout of the electronic pull-tabs, there have been no problems with the equipment, said Healy, who said the biggest challenge appears to be getting people to change their routine and try something new.

“It’s kind of a mixed reaction,” said Keith Pattison, president of the KEC. “The younger kids pick it up more and play it.”

The older patrons still prefer the traditional paper pull-tabs, Pattison said, but interest is slowly growing since the new gaming system was installed Oct. 8.

“It’s been picking up,” he said. “It’s not as big as we thought it would be.”

On a good day the business will have $1,000 in electronic pull-tab sales. Some days it’s zero. Since going online, the Willmar business has total sales of $11,350 and a payout in winnings of $9,427.

At Brother’s Bar in Belgrade, sales have reached $16,686 and payout to winners is at $13,237 since the electronic pull-tabs were installed in November.

“It’s going well. Customers seem to like them,” said Joyce Bobst, manager. “We’ve been having some good payouts, so that’s exciting for them.”

Bobst said people of all ages, from the early 20 to the late 70s, like to play the electronic pull-tabs.

“People that I never expected enjoy playing them,” she said. “I believe it’s the entertainment value.”

Both Bobst and Pattison said having the new electronic games has not decreased their sales of traditional paper pull-tabs, but has resulted in new gambling dollars.

Even though the electronic pull-tabs are billed as being money-makers for the Vikings stadium, there is a long trickledown of money that takes place before any money gets to the stadium project, said Healy.

Most of the revenue goes to pay winners. The remainder is used to pay local charities — such as Scouts and sports — and pay taxes, vendors, the host site and administration, he said.

Taxes collected from the electronic pull-tabs go to a state fund that has $37 million in obligations, said Healy, adding that any revenue generated beyond that level goes to the Vikings stadium.

Raising money for local charities is the primary reason for the traditional and electronic pull-tabs, he said.

Statewide, the electronic options have not decreased the sale of paper pull-tabs, said Healy.

“It’s all additional revenue,” he said.

“It’s very simple to play,” said Bobst. “It’s good for the business. Good for the customers. They’re having fun with them.”

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750