Minnesota official reports surge in charitable gambling

Published 2:22 pm Saturday, January 7, 2017

ST. PAUL — Charitable gambling surged in Minnesota last year, buoyed by a stronger economic picture, a state official said.

Minnesota Gambling Control Board compliance officer Gary Danger said about $1.5 billion was spent on charitable gambling in the first six months of 2016, a 13 percent increase over 2015. He said the numbers from July through November were on track to be up almost 11 percent.

Lower gas prices may also be tied to the increase. Danger said people have a little extra money to spend on fun.

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Spending on pull tabs, bingo, raffles and other charitable gambling in fiscal 2016 equates to more than $275 for every person in Minnesota, Gaming officials said.

Of the forms of gambling, electronic pull tabs saw the biggest increase in 2016. In 2012, electronic pull tabs made their debut in Minnesota, and today about 600 of the 2,800 gaming sites across the state now offer electronic tablets loaded with games.

“Some were a little apprehensive about it. The conventional wisdom was electronic pull tabs would cannibalize paper sales. What they’ve found is that they are complementary goods. When electronic pull tabs are put in, paper sales go up too,” Danger said.

He added that many people are showing an interest in trying both forms.

Nonprofits such as veterans groups and community charities were given 4.7 percent of the total, or $70 million, after prizes, taxes and expenses were paid.

In 2000, charitable gambling approached the $1.5 billion mark, but decreased by nearly 50 percent over the following decade during the Great Recession.