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“Open All” Electronic Pull-Tab Machines are Illegal, Rules Minnesota Court of Appeals

The Minnesota Gambling Control Board (MGCB) decided in 2019 that electronic pull-tab machines should not have an “open all” feature. Nine days later, the regulator reversed its decision. Unfortunately, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) could not take this decision.

SMSC is one of the Indian tribes that offer Class III gambling services. The tribe filed suit against it, explaining that the “open all” feature worked just like slot machines. Yet, only tribal casinos can offer Class III games in Minnesota. The tribe challenged the regulator’s decision in 2019. Unfortunately, the judge did not side with the tribe as he ruled that the “open all” feature was legal.

Ideally, this function allows users to hit one button. Upon hitting, cascading rows appear on the grid featuring animated characters. Players can win bonus rounds by playing the game. Evidently, slot machines have this technicality. SMSC is now happy because the Minnesota Court of Appeals has reversed the 2019 administrative judge’s decision. The court made its decision based on the 2019 emails from MGCB.

Gambling Rules about Electronic Pull Tabs and Class III Gaming

Class III gaming activities include blackjack games, table and card games, and slot machines. Only native tribes can offer these games according to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and a tribe must have an agreement with the state government.

This agreement sets regulations under which tribal casinos can operate and share tax revenue with the state. Electronic Pull Tabs are digital versions of lottery tickets. They work like scratch-offs but use cardboard flaps. These games became legal in 2012 to help Minnesota to raise funds for building the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium. Restaurants and Bars can have Electronic Pull Tabs machines. Like linked bingo, Electronic Pull Tabs are available on the same devices. These are Class II games.

The legal Electronic Pull Tab machine works by picking prizes and losing plays from a small pool of tickets. Then, players can show one row of symbols at a time to determine if they are winners. The “open all” function allowed players to open rows of symbols simultaneously. Statute 349.12 explains that Electronic Pull Tabs should open each pull tab ticket individually. It should also open each column, row, or line individually.

Pull Tabs Are Successful in the State

The Minnesota law requires the Electronic Pull Tabs return to player (RTP) to be 85 percent. A larger percentage of the money from these machines is dedicated to charities or the state, while the hosting venue and host take a small income. These machines generated over $1.9 billion in 2022, a 51 percent increase from the previous year. Over $1.6 billion returned to players, while the state earned $270 million. This was a good performance. However, the paper pull tabs generated $306 million.

Minnesota generated slightly over $1 billion in 2013 from all forms of lottery games. Today, this number has increased to $4.25 billion. While Tribe Nations are celebrating the win, lottery officials insist that iLottery and iGaming can coexist. Electronic Pull Tabs supporters even insist that the rival is illegal gambling and not themselves.

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