Minnesota charities need e-tabs, e-tab revenue

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, March 7, 2023

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Guest column by Jennifer Havlick

Charities across Minnesota have heard a great deal of discussion about lawmakers possibly getting rid of electronic-pulltabs, better known as e-tabs. No bills have been filed, but legislators have said publicly the matter is on the table at the Capitol.

Jennifer Havlick

They said they want to hear from us. Here is our input in support of our American Legion posts:

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We call on state lawmakers to keep e-tabs as they presently are. We did our job to pay off the pro football stadium, often with a mix of paid and volunteer labor and always with volunteer oversight committees. Now the state needs to reward us by reducing state taxes on charitable gambling. It’s time.

The revenue from e-tabs has been crucial in dealing with the rising costs of running charitable gambling operations. Wages, supplies, games — the overall cost of living is up.

A $2,000 food shelf donation given in 2003 and 2013 went a lot farther than the same amount in 2023. Posts have adjusted, and e-tab revenue has helped them support their communities despite price increases. They are able to give and help with life’s necessities.

We have no issue with casinos taking on sports betting, and we wish them all the success. We do oppose giving casinos a total monopoly on all e-gaming. Taking away e-tabs or scaling them down would do just that. When the issue came up in 2021, the state’s own fiscal note said local charities would lose $33 million. Why would lawmakers want that to happen?

Upsetting the charitable gambling landscape of Minnesota would impact children, who benefit from donations for sports, scholarships, food programs, school activities, homeless programs and local nonprofits for the young. Programs such as Wishes & More, which grants wishes to children fighting terminal illnesses, would receive far less.

Veterans will suffer! Legion posts statewide use gambling funds to pay for honor guards providing last respects. Funds are used on important veterans’ programs, such as taking totally disabled veterans hunting, or the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans working to solve veteran homelessness, or the Eagle’s Healing Nest in Sauk Centre helping veterans who struggle with PTSD. The American Legion’s Minnesota Veteran Assistance Fund helps struggling veterans no matter where in the state they reside. It maintains basic needs of a veteran, deployed servicemember’s family or to assist surviving minor children of Minnesota veterans. Why would our state leaders wish to hurt these programs?

In 2021, newspapers statewide editorialized that getting rid of or scaling back e-tabs would be bad government. The state’s fiscal note also said it would hurt wages by $35 million, and local restaurants and bars would lose $30 million. You look at these numbers and ask: Why? Why is this even being considered?

Minnesotans simply like knowing their gambling dollars will benefit their own communities. Pulltab and e-tab sellers have excellent rapport with customers, and, no doubt, they helped customers become familiar with the new electronic product. That’s why they succeeded.

Let the casinos take the lead on sports betting. Let charities keep our e-tabs “as is” so we can continue to help with firefighting equipment, marching band uniforms, football headsets, handicap-accessible playgrounds, ice time, emergency shelter, FFA, park shelters, city parades and so on. Finally, let’s reduce the 36% state tax on charitable gambling. Everyone wins.

Jennifer Havlick is the commander of the American Legion in Minnesota.