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E-pulltabs at 1 year: Games raise $0 for Vikings stadium

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Much has been said about the electronic-pulltab gaming machines that were supposed to be a reliable revenue stream that would help the state of Minnesota pay for a gleaming new Vikings stadium.

The devices have been debated, maligned as a disappointment and the focus of much finger-pointing.

But nothing sums up the story of the e-pulltab machines better than this single number: $0.

On the game's one-year anniversary in the state, that's how much the devices have raised for the stadium, the Star Tribune reports. What'd we learn?

“To take an untried source of revenue for the sole source of funding for a major project is ill-advised,” Gov. Mark Dayton said Friday, the newspaper noted. “That’s my number one take-away from this.”

The concept had been straight-forward: The state owes $348 million for its share of the glassy new $975 million stadium, and state leaders got behind the plan to put the e-pulltab games into the state's bars and restaurants as a revenue generator.

But the games famously flopped. Players spent about $15 million to play the e-games, but 85 percent went right back to players as prizes, according to new state data, the Star Tribune reports. Roughly $2 million was left and went to charity expenses, donations and taxes, the newspaper reports.

Bottom line: no money was raised for the stadium vs. the $35 million that had been projected.

In the end, players of the state's popular paper pulltab games didn't go for it, saying the iPad-device game version just wasn't as fun, MPR noted last week in a story that examined further why e-pulltabs failed.

The devices did not flood into restaurants and bars as expected, as establishment owners warily considered the machines. "It's not worth the trouble," former Republican state Sen. Amy Koch told MPR. She helped negotiate the early stadium legislation, and she now runs a Maple Lake bowling alley that offers the pull-tabs.

To make up for the shortfall, Dayton got behind a backup plan to generate funds. A one-time tax on cigarette supplies generated more than $30.4 million, most of which is earmarked for the nearly $1 billion stadium. A new tax on out-of-state corporation is also expected to contribute to the state's piece of the pie.

The e-pulltab flop flap has sparked new conversations about how the stadium should be financed.

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