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Minnesota Court Of Appeals Rules Pull Tab Game Illegal

Written By Katarina Vojvodic | Updated:
Court Of Appeals Gambling In Minnesota Pull Tab Games

A Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the Minnesota Gambling Control Board (MGCB) inappropriately allowed an “open-all” feature on electronic pull tab games. The court also said the function would soon be illegal, affecting electronic gambling in Minnesota.

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community brought the matter to the court after initially challenging the open-all function in 2019. The group stated that the function mimics slot machines, which the state’s tribes operate exclusively.

The feature allows a player to hit one button to trigger cascading rows in which they can win bonus rounds. Some slot machines have the same feature. With a click of a button, players reveal animated characters across the reels and get the chance to win bonuses.

The Shakopee Tribe welcomed the Minnesota Court of Appeals decision

Monday’s ruling reverses an administrative law judge’s decision that found open-all electronic pull-tab games were legal. The Shakopee Tribe, which had long challenged the legitimacy of the previous ruling, welcomed Monday’s decision. The tribe’s statement said:

“We call on the Gambling Control Board and the Minnesota Legislature to take this opportunity to resolve this problem and others related to the regulation of electronic pull tabs for good.”

2019 emails constituted rule-making outside normal procedures

On Mar. 13, 2019, the MGCB sent an email saying it would no longer approve the open-all function. Nine days later, the board reversed itself after getting pushback from vendors. It said it would consider the open-all function for electronic gambling in Minnesota on a case-by-case basis.

The board claimed that the emails did not create a new rule. Emails only communicated a policy that decisions would be made case-by-case.

On this occasion, the Minnesota Gambling Control Board Executive Director Tim Mahoney commented: “It’s hard to put the horse back in the barn” with electronic pull tab games.

Mahoney also didn’t think changing them would be a problem for commercial operators. “I don’t think if they took some of the bells and whistles away from e-tabs you would have that much of an impact,” he commented. Mahoney added that the board would not immediately ban them.

Krueger wants the Gambling Control Board to appeal Monday’s decision

As per the Gaming Control Board’s latest report, electronic pull tabs raised $1.9 billion during FY2022. Paper pull tabs brought in another $2.1 billion. The profits go to local non-profit organizations and charities.

In a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWSSam Krueger, executive director of the Electronic Gaming Group, said he wants the board to appeal Monday’s decision. Krueger wrote:

“Today’s decision from the Minnesota Court of Appeals does not outlaw or ban e-pull tabs. It does not change the e-pull tab approvals previously granted by the Minnesota Gambling Control Board since 2012. The opinion does not say that the ‘open-all feature’ on any e-pull tab is illegal.”

He went on to add: “Despite the relentless efforts of the tribal casinos to destroy electronic charitable gaming in Minnesota, electronic pull tabs have consistently grown in popularity since their introduction in 2012.

E-pull tabs have funded numerous worthy causes, including local veterans’ groups, volunteer fire departments, youth sports teams – and by funding the state’s portion of US Bank Stadium 20 years early, electronic pull tabs benefit all Minnesota taxpayers.”

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Katarina Vojvodic

Katarina Vojvodic is a lead writer for PlayUSA who lives in Toronto. Vojvodic provides coverage of the US gambling industry with a focus on US online casinos. Previously, she covered Ontario’s online gambling industry for Vojvodic holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade. Outside working hours, she can be found near the water with her husband and their two kids.

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