What are the odds? Charitable gambling bounces back

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Pulltabs, bingo, meat raffles, electronic games and other forms of charitable gambling are finding more fans in the state's bars and restaurants and once again enriching nearly 1,200 Minnesota charities, athletic groups and non-profits.

The Star Tribune reports receipts for charitable gambling surged after a decade-long decline. Gross receipts increased 8.6 percent statewide this fiscal year and are expected to top $1.1 billion. Numbers compiled by the Minnesota Gambling Control Board show that's the heftiest percentage increase in more than 20 years.

“It’s just clear to us the economy has rebounded,” said Al Lund, executive director of Allied Charities of Minnesota, which represents nonprofits with charitable gambling operations.

The story says that Anoka County is the big winner in the games, with $101 million in gambling receipts in 2013. That represents a 14 percent jump from 2012 and breaks down to roughly $300 in charitable gambling by every man, woman and child in the county. It's about $200 per person for the state as a whole.

An unexpected resurgence bar bingo with a younger crowd is contributing to the winning trend. It's not happening just in Minnesota. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal had a long feature story on the renewed popularity of the old school game among what it called "hipsters."

More than 90 percent of statewide charitable gambling revenue still comes from paper pulltabs, Lund said, with e-gambling accounting for only about 1 percent. Earlier this week, the Pioneer Press reported that the new Minnesota Vikings stadium got a disappointing $89,000 in taxes from electronic and paper forms of charitable gaming in fiscal year 2013 flowing into the stadium account. The state's hope had been that increased tax revenue from new electronic games would fund its $348 million share of the $1 billion stadium. Receipts came in significantly below projections and state legislators enacted corporate tax-law changes and a one-time cigarette tax to close the gap.

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