What’s the big attraction of electronic pulltabs?

Having passed most of my math courses while in high school, I’m not much of a gambler, but I admit that occasionally I’ll stop at a casino, throw some money into the slot machines and maybe win a quarter or two, at which point I stop playing. If I come out of the endeavor a quarter ahead, I’ve beaten ‘the man” and that’s enough for me.

The thing is: With today’s electronic slot machines, I never know exactly why I won. I only know that a bunch of musical notes sound and some crooked lines that look like a GPS gone bad appear on the screen, and some lights go off. Whee! I might as well have put the quarter in, pushed a button and had someone say “loser” or “winner.”

Here’s a perfect example…

I thought about this situation while reading Tim Nelson’s story about the dawn of electronic pull tabs in Minnesota, the money from which will build a few parts of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium.

Pull tabs, apparently, were once fairly popular back when people went to bars, pounded down a few drinks, smoked a few cigarettes, and left paper pull tabs on the floor. But people aren’t going to bars as much anymore, you can’t smoke, and paper tabs aren’t a sexy, fun way to gamble, anymore — not when you’ve got bells and whistles and pink lines telling you the what, if not the why.

Here’s Tim’s video demonstration of the solution (sorry, iPeople, it’s in Flash)

I get five yellow bananas in a row, but other than that, it’s just a guy pushing buttons, some beeps and an indication whether you won or lost.

Here’s the important question: Is that going to lure enough people into playing in order to pay off the mortgage on a $1 billion stadium?

This new era of video gambling, it seems to me, is PacMan in a World of Warcraft world. Granted, there’s never been any strategy in most video gambling — video poker might be an exception — but what’s the attraction here that will get people playing electronic pulltabs who aren’t playing the game now?

If it comes down to a battle of beeps and lights, don’t the slot machines at the casino still hold sway? And if it’s the instant gratification, doesn’t a lottery scratch-off do the same thing?

Discussion point: Will you be playing the electronic pulltabs?

  • Kassie

    I like pull tabs, but probably won’t play electronic pull tabs. What I like about pull tabs is that you can bring them back to the table and play with your friends. It is a communal experience. You can look at the boards and the number of cards left in the box and figure out your odds. It is fun.

  • Tim

    The only slots I play are penny slots, and those are just to score a free drink or kill time while someone else is at the blackjack or poker table. I can’t see myself ever spending money on electronic pulltabs in a bar.

  • Kevin Watterson

    I’ve lost $1.25 in casinos since I turned 18, so I’m hardly an expert on the subject. But I would think the allure of e-pull tabs is that they’re easy.

  • Bob Collins

    I’ve never played the paper ones. Are they hard?

  • Kevin Watterson

    I don’t know, I don’t go to bars or gamble. I just figure it’s easier to spend more money in a short amount of time on an iPad than it is having to exchange money for tickets. Like downloading from iTunes versus going to Best Buy.

  • Jim Shapiro

    “Part of the $10 million I spent on gambling, part on booze and part on women. The rest I spent foolishly.”

    -George Raft

  • Jim!!!

    Bob, uour hypothetical machine doesn’t need a fancy button, just a coin slot and a coin chute.

  • Kassie

    Are they hard? No. You get a card, you pull the tabs, and if there is a line through them you win. Usually you are looking for three of a kind. Or two of a kind and a wild card symbol.

  • Robert Moffitt

    I won $100 playing pulltabs once, but I don’t play very often. Odds are not very good.

    I have also warned charities and nonprofits not to rely on charitable gambling. They only get a few pennies from every dollar, and the industry has been in decline for some time — well before the nearly 5-year-old smoking ban.

  • jon

    I think the idea of electronic pull tabs pulling in masses of funds for the state is a clear indication that the legislature is completely out of touch with todays young people.

    Perhaps they need to relax education standards on math in order to get more gamblers in the pipe line for future generations.

    Honestly, just because I’m not 30 (yet) doesn’t mean I can only function in front of some sort of electronic device, and it also doesn’t mean that I will use (or pay to use) an electronic device just because it’s there.

  • Roger

    I think gambling addicts will use electronic pulltabs as another way to lose money. I’d rather put quarters into a pinball machine and have fun playing a game. I do occassionally play the Lottery dream game for $2. The odds are horrible, but I’m not losing much.

  • Joe

    According to the demo, it takes about 3 seconds per event to resolve in a win or lose. At $1 per event that is $20 per minute. At $20 per minute that is $1,200 per hour. With a maximum payout by law of 85%, that means the player will spend $180 per hour to play the machine. Value proposition? Ya, right. Nevada slots pay back to the player 96%. Thus, using the same time factors, Nevada slots charge players $48 per hour as compared to $180 for Minnesota electronic pulltabs. Dud city….