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Revenue from e-pull tabs only half what state expected

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Minnesota budget officials say electronic pull tabs are generating only about half as much money as the state projected. Revenue from the games will help cover the $350 million the state has agreed to contribute to a new football stadium for the Vikings.

A projected $34 million in revenue for the current fiscal year has now been trimmed to $16 million. One reason is that getting the games into bars and restaurants is taking longer than expected. So far only one vendor has passed background checks and been approved to operate the games. But another reason is that Minnesotans are spending less per game than projected.

The games are an extension of the paper pull-tabs, sales of which have long raised money for local groups around the state. The electronic versions are played on an iPad and were first hit Minnesota bars in September.

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A plan to install electronic bingo and pull-tab machines in bars and restaurants is a popular suggestion when it comes to how the state could raise the money for a new Vikings stadium. But at least one expert says it would be a big gamble. The only revenue estimates we have are based on current sales, and no one can guess how customers will react to the new games.

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Republican Kurt Zellers says he's very concerned that revenue from electronic pull-tabs won't be enough to cover the state's share of a new Vikings stadium. And the current plan would designate the state's general fund as a backup. "If (it's) taking money out of the general fund, which is schools, which is roads, that doesn't work," he says in a Pioneer Press report.

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The state's gaming control board on Tuesday said bar and restaurant patrons can begin playing new electronic pull-tab gambling games. At least two places in St. Paul, Mancini's restaurant and O'Gara's bar, planned to begin offering them immediately. State officials hope the devices – iPads loaded with gambling software – will bring in as much as $72 million to help pay the state's $350 million share of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium.