Will Electronic Pulltabs Attract a Younger Crowd or Problem Gamblers for Vikings Stadium #wilfare?

One of the issues raised during the March 14th Senate Local Government and Elections Committee hearing on the Vikings stadium corporate welfare bill came from Sen. Benjamin Kruse (R-Brooklyn Park) who asked questions about what backup funding sources would the state have to rely upon if electronic pulltabs didn’t produce as much revenue as the state estimates.

That’s a very fair question. As I understand the issue, if people don’t flock to electronic pulltabs, the state would have to make up the difference by raiding the state’s general fund. As in, we would be taking money from schools, roads, and health care to make the debt payments on the stadium we built for Zygi Wilf.

Which makes me wonder: why would anyone find electronic pulltabs interesting? Here are the thoughts I’ve come up with and heard about electronic pulltabs in recent days.

1. Personally, I’d be LESS likely to use pulltabs in electronic form. The paper form, to me, is more social. When I open a loser, I can throw it down on the table or flick it at a friend of mine. I don’t believe I’d be able to do either of those things with an iPad style pulltab device.

2. Kids these days that are busy on their phones at bars are not likely to turn their attention to electronic pulltabs. While paper pulltabs may not seem all that cool versus the latest iPhone, it’s not the electronic nature of the device that makes it more popular than paper pulltabs. It’s what they’re doing with that device. Do you really think that paper or electronic pulltabs can compete with a 24 year old getting an alert on her phone that someone has commented on a photo she’s been tagged in on Facebook? No chance.

3. One group that may find electronic pulltabs more attractive than paper pulltabs is gambling addicts. Lets say that you just ripped through $100 of mostly losing pulltabs. In the paper pulltab world, will that gambling addict make the walk of shame to redeem their $4 in winners for another $100 in pulltabs? Or, if they are $96 in the hole while huddled up in the corner of a bar, will they keep pouring more money into the machine without human interaction?

What I’m saying is that, intuitively, I don’t think electronic pulltabs will attract the crows that electronic pulltab promoters claim they can. And they may drive our state’s problem gamblers even further into the hole.

All to subsidize – not a charity – but a private NFL franchise owned by a New Jersey businessman.

20 thoughts on “Will Electronic Pulltabs Attract a Younger Crowd or Problem Gamblers for Vikings Stadium #wilfare?”

  1. I just found out that Cory Merrifield is on the board for the MN GOP Elephant Club. Have you ever looked into how much it costs to join the Elephant Club? $1000/year for kids over 40. Cory is under 40 so he only has to pony up $125/yr, but I would presume he has to be in bed by 8:30 too. This year they’re bringing Rep. Allen West (R-FL) to their Lincoln/Reagan Dinner tonight. Should be a laugh riot as every Senator sits as far away from their Leg. Aide as possible.

  2. Pull tabs are being question by the charities who are supposed to provide the added revenue from using electronic devices. Many legislators are getting negative feedback from charities in their own districts. The issue seems to be widespread in the whole state. It’s temporarily, at least, delaying action on the stadium proposal.

    Some of this is Dayton’s own fault because he is afraid to take on new competition for the tribes and so he took the path of least resistance, which is pull-tabs. It’s providing a great opening for the GOP members who don’t want to vote yes or no–they just blame a shaky pull tab projection for inaction.

    I wonder how many GOP careers Brodkorb will destroy in the meantime as he was highly effective in doing similar things to the DFL when running the Minnesota Democrats Exposed operation? He probably flushed out the DFL trysts but hasn’t yet finished on the GOP unless a big settlement us made. We are now seeing pre-announcements of GOP legislators who will not run for reelection. Perhaps there will be a block of lame duck Republicans who will change the dynamics here.

    Note that Senjem (who is a Racino supporter) isn’t being real sympathetic to Daytons floundering with pull tabs.

  3. @Rick, regardless of the source of public financing, the public financing isn’t justified. Fans aren’t willing to pay for Zygi’s stadium, and neither should non-fans.

  4. @Ed. You have been very clear about your distaste for Wilfare and completely unsuccessful in your shaky arguments to convince me that it won’t happen.

    FYI. Read the Strib opinion piece today about White Earth. Why aren’t you pursuing this alternative??? Dayton is afraid to.

  5. @Rick, if I haven’t been clear enough yet, I assume that the legislature will eventually come up with a bill they can hold their nose and vote for. It’s looking less and less like this will be the year that that happens.

    I support private financing for a stadium where fans and sponsors pay. Like the vast majority of Minnesotans, I don’t support expanding gambling in the state to subsidize Vikings season ticket holders. If they and Wilf are not willing to pay, building a new stadium is not a financially viable project.

  6. As game designers, we too are worried that finite-probability electronic games of chance may not fare as well on tablet style devices as is being projected. They would do better as Internet games given that authorization of such is no possible if you can prove your clients are within the state and, presumably, of age. The appropriate roll-out would be a restricted test marketing. And, we had one of the first patents on these style games.

  7. All considered, it appears the electronic pull tab concept isn’t a sure thing and could fizzle. Perhaps, however, there are solutions to the issues Joe points out–but maybe not in time for the Vikings.

    This deal seems to be heading for a different public funding mechanism to provide Wilfare and force a proposal down Ed’s throat, which he can then whine and blog about for years to come.

    Although Ed is right that the deal will not get done soon, the dynamics at the Capitol just changed and the GOP suddenly is very worried about re-election. There are a bunch of indications that the GOP will get a public funding deal done this session because they may be afraid of a no vote backlash. A former GOP legislator from St Paul is saying much the same.

    The GOP just backed off on it’s right to work idea. Brodkorb is out gunning for reputations. You
    hear no GOP members disparaging the Wilf’s need for public subsidy even if they are opposed to
    granting it. The stars are lining up for the very deal that Ed claims will be approved with legislators holding their noses. If pull tabs die–here come Racino.

  8. @Rick, you seem to have missed the Senate committee that approved a Vikings stadium bill yesterday. A loan rather than a gift to Wilf.

  9. @Ed. The necessary amount of Wilfare could be structured as a very long term loan from the state with interest locked in at current short term treasury rates and principal reduction contingent on some portion of ticket revenues. The stadium would be owned by Zigy and he could charge rent for the 350 days a year that it is not needed by the team. It would be privately owned and Zigy could pass on the risk of not selling enough tickets to the State. If the team was lousy, as it was last year, or if tickets could not be sold, Zigy would not care because he shares 40% of the ticket revenue with the NFL.

    I can think of many reasons it would be a bad deal for the state and taxpayers and the NFL–but a loan could be a great deal for Zigy. It is certainly possible, I suppose, that you and other public funding opponents could be duped by such a structure. It’s all Wilfare and it comes with hosting an NFL team.

  10. Okay, I’ll bite.

    So is this it, Rick? In the game of screw people with a stadium up our ass that the loan idea has already been compromised? That we might as well try to find the most comfortable position so the stadium cuts least deeply into our anal passage?

    I think not. I propose we ignore the NFL, until they either man up or go away…kinda like a good looking woman does, because we deserve better. Period.

  11. Politics around the stadium is getting crazy. Dayton, according to a MPR report met with some Mpls council-members who have been solid no votes against the stadium.

    Rybak is also applied pressure saying that if the council balks at the deal they will have to answer to voters for passing up a chance to reduce property taxes.

    The council’s approval is not needed to do the deal, but the legislature apparently wants a letter in the file that there is sufficient council support. If the state approves the stadium and then it goes to the council to vote yes or no—the council-members might want to disconnect their phones.

    And oddly enough Senjem proposes a Racino bill apparently thinking he has the GOP votes to approve it on a committee and it gets shot down.

    It seems that the anti-gambling forces have suddenly gotten a shift in the wind direction for the moment. And the guy who blew the whistle on Brodkorb now works as a consultant for the tribes– while one of the most senior GOP party operatives works as a consultant for racino–and Emmer’s Lt. Gov partner is shaking down the tribes for money to lobby against gambling. Some of the detail got released today about who is paying for the lobbying at the state and it confirms there is plenty of firepower on the gambling issue.

    Oh what a web has been weaved.

  12. @Rick, I thought, with Senjem carrying the bill, that the Racino would have made it a bit further before dying this year. When it can’t make it as a bill to fund college scholarships, I don’t see how it could make it as a funding source for Zygi Wilf’s bottom line.

  13. @Ed Something strange happened in that committee. This is just a small number of legislators who voted and it means little beyond that. As far as Stadium funding goes, there is nobody yet saying that electronic pulls tabs won’t be the solution (except you, of course.)

    I wouldn’t conclude anything until there are final bills before the whole legislature and a yes or no vote is required. If your perception is right that electronic pull tabs are not preferable to the paper version, there won’t be added revenue and then racino or a White Earth casino is back on the table.

    In any event, there eventually will be Wilfare and Dayton and Rybak will go to the ribbon cutting with the Vikings cheerleaders alongside of Bud Grant and you won’t like it one bit. The legislature doesn’t legally need the council to approve this deal, but they would like a majority vote on the council as political cover. Who are you betting on in the council that will FLIP from a “no” vote to a “yes” vote?

  14. @Rick, it doesn’t seem that strange to me to see opposition to a questionable funding source.

    White Earth is not back on the table. I don’t know how you can’t see how dead that option is. It’s even more dead than Racino. That plan is opposed by the anti-gambling crowd, CAGE, and MIGA.

    I’m betting that the Minneapolis City Council won’t vote on this since I don’t think a bill will get done at the state level this year.

  15. @ Ed. I suspect the most questionable funding source is pull-tabs and you pointed out some of the weaknesses. White Earth is dead for now, but if MIGA’s objection that the funding is harming the tribes–then White Earth is in play. MIGA just wants to keep it’s own interests protected–but they have zero interest in helping non-MIGA tribes like White Earth. The GOP has wanted to change this monopoly for some time. At this point, I would guess that MIGA and Racino are doing a better job of lobbying. Pull tabs actually don’t have any support other than Dayton and Rybak. It remains to be seen if the charities who currently pull tabs will want to take on electronic stuff that isn’t proven anywhere else in the US. Pull tabs–it seems to me are a really big bet for both the charities and the state.

    As far as the council goes, if Rybak has a majority who will sign a letter to the legislature, there needs to be no council vote. Sen. Rosen said the law does not prevent the state from over-riding the council—they are just looking for political cover as every legislator voting yes will have voters in their districts who feel just like you do about public funding.

    In my estimation, based on info from a bunch of reliable sources,, if they don’t complete this in the normal session–there will almost certainly be a special session. The GOP is on shaky ground after the shutdown and Koch/Brodkorb mess. More resignations may be coming–the GOP also probably can’t afford to irritate rural area Viking supporters who don’t give a rip about sales and property taxes in the big cities. There are not enough no votes in the DFL to stop it.

  16. @Rick, I don’t see the GOP, who refuses to raise taxes, coming to an agreement on a half billion funding scheme for a NJ businessman. That seems politically difficult, to say the least. As much as the GOP leadership doesn’t care about urban areas, I don’t think they’ll override the city’s charter. It seems more likely to me that a deal won’t get done this year, but next year Hennepin County will step up to do a stadium deal.

    I highly doubt that a special session would be called to redistribute the public’s money to Zygi Wilf. Especially in an election year. While that may play in a few out-state communities who’d pay little to none of the costs, I doubt that the majority of the GOP of DFL legislators would like that to be the topic of their pre-election campaign stops.

  17. @ Ed. I think you are absolutely right that most legislators of both parties do not want the Vikings to be a re-election campaign issue. That said, they may have little control over what is the “hot button” issue before the election. They are worried. The Vikings provoke strong feelings among rabid fans, loyal fans, occasional fans, TV only fans, Ed-type fans, and non-fans. Anyway this turns out, almost all politicians will have unhappy voters.

    I suppose it is possible that Hennepin county could come into the deal and Opat appears to stand ready to help, if asked.

    The Mpls charter is basically irrelevant here as a legal issue and the city attorney is on record saying that. The only reason it is alluded to is because the legislature really does not want to deal with a political image of forcing something that is technically opposed by a majority of council members. The councilmember opinions do matter–but they do not have legal options here even if all members were opposed.

    In my experience, your read of the GOP is offbase. The vast majority of GOP members are pro commerce and frequently support millionaires in getting assistance from government. They do not want to increase INCOME taxes but they invariably opt to increase sales taxes on food and clothing and to shift the overall tax burden to local property taxes. You might take note that there are no GOP members attacking the Wilf’s or rich private NFL owners in general or preaching about Wilfare. Billionaires actually are actively courted by the GOP and you have to look no further than the national GOP’s source of funds to support primary candidates. Do you think billionaires are donating with no hooks attached???

    The state GOP works a bit differently, but as they run scared–no billionaires like Wilf will be alienated–you can bet on it.

  18. @Rick, one example Rybak has mentioned of a previous charter override was to finance a new wastewater treatment plant. Not exactly as sexy a project as building an unnecessary replacement NFL stadium, but providing clean drinking water and not polluting the Mississippi seem a lot more justified than padding Wilf’s pockets.

    The GOP would have to override the Minneapolis City Council, and a Minneapolis Charter amendment that received 69% of the vote in the city. While Lanning and Rosen seem willing to do that (their constituents are FAR from Minneapolis) people like Hann and Chamberlain don’t seem to support raising or redirecting taxes to Zygi.

    While there are certainly quite a few business-aligned GOP politicians, the tea party wing of the party does not seem to fall into that category. Corporate welfare means expanding government, which is something they philosophically (and strictly) oppose. The Late Debate crowd is a good example of this. They’ve stated on the air that they’d support transportation infrastructure upgrades for a privately financed facility, but that’s it. The rest can be handled through user fees and private financing.

  19. @Ed

    FYI Quoting MN POST on 3/16

    [City Attorney Susan Segal has issued this statement on the charter matter: “Based on my reading of the current proposal the legislature would direct the Commissioner of Revenue to retain a part of the Convention Center Taxes for the purposed of paying off certain capital and operating expenses required for the proposed Vikings Stadium. If that is the case, the taxes would be outside the control of the City and our Charter provisions.”]

    Also, you are pretty much in alignment with the TParty folks in both your position and lack of flexibility. Most of the GOP isn’t taking the same position as Hann–he seems to be in a minority.

    And the DFL is not fighting Zigy either. Bakk says he has the votes. The John Marty’s are out of the loop, as usual.

  20. @Rick, I don’t see how Susan Segal’s position differs from my own. The state can screw the city if it likes, and some people with the city are willing to bend over to help Wilf’s bottom line at the public’s expense.

    You seem to have a hard time understanding that people can oppose the same issue for different reasons.

    If the politicians have the votes, bills don’t die in committee.

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