Airport could be next for E-pulltab machines

Funding for the state's portion of a new Vikings stadium is falling below projections, but putting machines in the airport could help boost revenue.

With the initial numbers for the revenue generated by electronic pulltabs running well under projections, the State of Minnesota is looking to add new potential revenue streams, including a plan to place E-pulltab machines at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

To date, the electronic pulltab machines, which are expected to pay the state's share of the new Vikings stadium, are currently running 51 percent under initial projections. However, only 85 of the state's 6,000 eligible bar and restaurants have installed the E-pulltab machines.

Gov. Mark Dayton met with state gaming officials Wednesday, and, following the meeting, he expressed optimism that, while off to a slow start, the revenue for the pulltab machines will increase as more of the devices are put in place and the public becomes more familiarized with the process.

One of the potential new revenue streams would be at the airport. The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Authority will consider installing six electronic pulltab machines. According to state documents, the airport is the largest seller of lottery tickets of any venue in the state. The MSPIAA will discuss the proposal at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Monday.

Projections of the installation of the machines at the airport claim that the six machines would generate more than $100,000 in revenue and, with bars located in both of the airport terminal, if successful, there could potentially be as many as 30 pulltab machines installed over time.

In the three months since it began, the electronic pulltab machines have pulled in just $450,000 in profits, which is split among charities, vendors and the state. While a low figure, considering that just 85 machines are in use, that number will grow significantly as more machines get installed statewide.

About half of the state's bars sell paper pulltabs and the belief is that the electronic pulltab will eventually phase out the tradition form of the game. Given the slow start of the program, revenue projections for the first year of the E-pulltab program have dropped from $34 million down to $16 million.

At first glance, it would appear as though the state significantly overshot potential for revenue generation with the program, but Dayton remains confident – saying the program needs time to get started and get into more venues. When that happens, the governor theorized, the revenues will climb toward the initial projections.

Fortunately for the Vikings, they have their stadium deal completed and ground is expected to be broken next year. As for the state, officials continue to maintain that, if they build it, gamblers will come. They haven't yet when it comes to funding the state's portion of the pulltab profits, but, given the limited exposure it has had to date, officials don't want a rush to judgment on the success or failure of the program.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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