innesota Governor Tim Walz signaled support for stricter regulations of electronic pull tabs in bars on Monday, which represents a disadvantage to bars and charities that have come to rely on the games for revenue.
Under a 2012 deal with the tribes, which control slot machine gambling, e-pull tabs were authorized to help finance the construction of the new Vikings stadium, but the games could not “mimic a video slot machine. Now tribes in Minnesota are pushing for closer regulation of electronic pull tabs, which have exploded in popularity at bars.
A state administrative law judge, last year, ruled against the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which operates Mystic Lake Casino, saying that electronic pull tabs offered in bars by charitable organizations did not infringe on the exclusive rights of Indian tribes to operate video slot machines.
“The original intent was not to have electronic pull tabs look like other gaming devices. We have a responsibility to our Indigenous nations who, in good faith, negotiated around those issues of pull tabs," said Governor Walz. "We need to honor the spirit and the letter of how those were originally created.”
State Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids sponsored a House bill that would alter the definition of electronic pull-tabs to prohibit certain forms of gambling.
A Legislative Budget Office report forecasts that bars could lose more than $29 million annually in revenue if the legislation is approved; distributors of electronic games would lose revenue of nearly $13 million annually, and revenue generated by charitable lawful gambling would drop $33 million annually.
Last week, bar owners and a handful of GOP lawmakers called for Senate Republicans to block the House bill from becoming part of the final state government budget bill. Senate and House lawmakers are currently working to bridge differences between their respective bills, according to Minnesota Reformer.
“When I think about how this legislation was kind of shoved in after deadlines and the impact that it’s going to have statewide once again on these charitable organizations, it’s mind-boggling how we could not follow the process,” said Rep. Keith Franke, R-St. Paul Park, who owns a bar where e-pull tabs are played, added that all the revenue from charitable gambling goes directly back into the community.