The following editorial was written by Howie Zimmer, owner of Howie’s Sports Bar in St. Cloud, and several other bars in central MN and posted to the St. Cloud Times. Howie is a 30 year MLBA Board Member and a great friend to everyone in Minnesota’s hospitality industry.
Electronic pull-tab games are essential to hospitality businesses, charities
Rep. Dan Wolgamott promised that he would fight for us in St. Paul but he recently voted to kill electronic pull tabs. By doing so, Rep. Wolgamott betrayed our local charities, bars and restaurants.
To add insult to injury, Rep. Wolgamott voted this way at a time when our charities and their small business partners are just starting to dig out from the wreckage of the pandemic.
Rep. Wolgamott and other politicians voted for HF 2366. The bill requires that games “may only display symbols typically associated with paper pull-tab tickets, may not include continuation play, bonus games, or additional screens … and may not display or simulate any other form of gambling, entertainment, slot machines, electronic video lotteries, or video games of chance.” Now the bill is in the Senate, where its companion is SF 1863.
Every year, e-pull tabs provide more than $30 million to charities throughout Minnesota. From veterans’ organizations to youth sports, funds generated by e-pull tabs have funded our state’s charities since they were introduced in 2012. In addition, proceeds from e-pull tabs have helped the state fund its portion of the Vikings stadium. From Warroad to Worthington, our charities count on the funds generated by electronic gaming to fulfill their missions.
Eliminating e-pulls will be absolutely devastating for our local charities, bars, and restaurants. In St. Cloud, some of the charities that have benefited from e-pull tab proceeds are the Granite City Lumberjacks; the Central Minnesota Noon Optimist Club; the St Cloud Youth Hockey Association; the St. Cloud All-City High School Marching Band; the St. Cloud Eagles Club #622; VFW Post 428; and VFW Post 484.
This egregious effort to eliminate e-pull tabs is driven by a desire of the state’s tribes to shut down gaming outside their reservations.
The fiscal note for HF 2366 confirms that “all existing electronic pull-tab and linked bingo games will be prohibited under the proposed language. Therefore, all revenue ($1,300 million per year) will be eliminated on those games.”
It declares that “Local bars selling electronic games will lose revenue” estimated at $29.25 million annually and that “local wages for those conducting lawful gambling will be reduced” by an estimated $35.75 million annually. Finally, the fiscal note states that “Available funds for lawful (charitable) purposes will be reduced” by approximately $33 million per year.
Talk about a body blow.
Our charities and small businesses need us to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. Instead of abandoning them, we should be supporting them by opposing this reckless and rash attempt to electronic gaming in our state.
Helping veterans, the disability community, youth athletics and many more worthwhile organizations is what electronic gaming is all about. Eliminating e-pull tabs and the good they have provided isn’t what Minnesotans want. Our charities and their small business partners deserve better from Rep. Wolgamott and other politicians.
In the House, Reps. Tama Theis, Tim O’Driscoll and Lisa Demuth deserve our appreciation by voting to protect our charities and small businesses. Rep. Dan Wolgamott voted against our charities, bars and restaurants.
Sens. Aric Putnam and Jeff Howe have not yet voted on this legislation.
The Minnesota legislature is out of session May 17. Please contact your legislators today and join us to protect our charities.
— Howie Zimmer, St. Cloud, is the owner of Howie’s Sports Bar and Grill.