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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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Bingo, pull-tabs: Rolling the dice for stadium funding

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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More than 1,200 nonprofit groups generated about $80 million from paper pull-tab games in 2009. The Pioneer Press reports the state Department of Revenue predicts electronic pull-tabs would produce $72 million in new tax money. Charities are told they'll benefit from a significant tax relief, but the amount remains uncertain because it's still unclear how much of that $72 million will be needed to help finance a new NFL stadium in Minnesota.

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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.