By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
As of Sept. 19, electronic pull tabs became legal in Minnesota. As of Oct. 18, they can be found at Cabin Fever in Little Falls.
“This is the first big thing in gambling since it was legalized in about 1985,” said Doug Dahlberg, gambling manager for the Flyer Athletic Boosters. “It’s a gateway to new customers, younger customers who are electronically savvy. They are a
generation who are comfortable with electronics. It’s second nature to them.”
Dahlberg said that paper pull tabs don’t necessarily draw younger people in.
Erick Kuehne, who owns Cabin Fever with his parents, Ron and Midge Kuehne, said he was excited with the new games and was pleased to be the first one in the community to put them in his establishment.
Each of the five games has a $1 or $2 version to choose from. One of the games also has a 50 cent option.
The player needs to pay the seller the amount of money they want to play with. They show their driver’s license and have an iPad assigned to them, with the money loaded onto the device.
The player chooses a game and begins play. Similar to a slot machine, the money is registered and the available amount is displayed in a window on the iPad. That amount will decrease with each play. It also increases with each win. The amount shows as credits.
New games are reloaded onto the iPads after all the tickets are sold in that game or upon termination of the game by the local gambling manager.
John Weaver, the owner of Express Games in Minneapolis, currently the only distributor of electronic pull tab devices in Minnesota, said it is the gambling manager’s job to watch the games and manage them appropriately.
The customer does not know how many of the large winners have been taken from each game or how many winners are left. If all the winning tickets are gone, it is up to the gambling manager to reload a new game.
“There is one large advantage the electronic games have over the paper pull tabs,” said Kuehne. “For example, when someone plays $50 in paper tabs, and they open a winner right away, they are stuck with the other 49 tickets. With the electronic games, the player may cash out whenever they want.”
A disadvantage to the paper games, said Kuehne, is that one customer is able to start playing a box when it looks good, ignoring the fact that others have been playing that box for a long time, looking for the winners. With the electronic games, no one knows what game the other customers are playing.
“The bartender or whoever is handling the pull tabs does not have to be constantly bringing more paper tabs to each customer,” said Kuehne. It leaves time for the employee to tend to other jobs.
Cabin Fever has four iPads available for its customers and Kuehne said that so far, there has not been a waiting line to use them.
“If there is a demand for more, based on sales, we will be able to get more,” said Kuehne.
Minnesota has limited six iPads to establishments with less than 200 seats and 12 iPads for those with more than 200 seats.
Weaver said electronic pull tabs are not out there to replace the paper tabs.
“We don’t want to take money from one game and put it into another,” Weaver said. “Our goal is to expand the number of players with a different type of game. The two games are structured differently.”
Weaver said the electronic games are more for the casual player looking for entertainment. There is less strategy than with the paper games.
“We are looking forward to new opportunities and choices in this field,” he said.