First Look: E-Pull Tabs Take Flight at MSP

Updated: 02/05/2013 7:23 AM By: Chris Egert

We have our first look at the electronic pull tabs now being used at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Surdyk's Flights offers MSP travelers wine - food - and now, electronic pull tabs in Terminal 1.

There are only a few of the machines in use so far - and we wondered if out of town travelers had any idea what the machines were - and what they helped pay for?

Mark Gentry of Nashville says, he had not heard of the games.

Gentry and Brent Clark are headed back to Nashville.  Before they flew out, they dropped a few bucks.  Not knowing part of the proceeds will help pay for the new Vikings Stadium.

Clark said, “I'd prefer it go to other charities first -- and the Vikings stadium second."

This is a touchy subject, as these fellas are Tennessee Titans fans.

Gentry joked, “Don't tell the Titans.. but that's ok!"

Clark added, “The charity aspect is good, and I see the need for increased revenue for sports stadiums.. it benefits the community in other ways."

Surdyk's Flights got the iPads-turned-gambling devices last week.  They will test them for 6 months.   Employees say the whole thing initially made them a bit reluctant, but bartender Taherah Shamsul-Bahri reports, “It hasn't given us any problems, and the customers like it."

Right now the plan is test the machines at 6 other airport bars to see how they work out.  

The e-pull tabs program - which brought the games to Minnesota restaurants and bars in September - hasn't raised the money that was projected. 

Ultimately, the state hopes to raise $348 million dollars in taxes from the games.

The hope is that the airport experiment will end up going well, as MSP is already the top seller of lottery tickets in Minnesota. 

So the state says the gamble on e-pull tabs, seems like a sure bet.

Tom Barrett, the Executive Director of the Minnesota Gambling Control Board thinks the numbers will come -- but stresses that unlike the lottery, “the e-pull tabs have no marketing budget -- and it is up to the bars and charities to drum up business.”

New January numbers from the Control Board show the e-pull tabs are currently being sold in 140 Minnesota bars.  They’ve tallied $5.9 million in gross receipts, and $900,000 in net receipts after prizes were paid.