Why the MSP Aiport matters for the stadium

airport logoThe Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport approved the installation of electronic pulltabs in six airport bars this week, and that’s a big deal, considering 33 million people a year go through the place.

Technically, the new pulltabs are a drop in the bucket: the state is projecting 15,400 of the pulltab machines will eventually be in use. This week’s approval meant there will intially be about 40 of the machines at MSP — less than half of one percent of the projected total.

But as in everything else stadium related — its as much about WHO as what.

“Getting these corporate locations is a big deal,” says Jon Weaver, with Express Games, distributor of the iPad-based version of the pulltabs. He said he hopes the deal he struck with HMS Host, the company that runs hospitality at the airport, will open the door to other hospitality giants, like Carlson or other hotel chains across Minnesota.

“That could mean getting into Radisson hotels and other locations, places that aren’t traditionally friendly to pull tabs,” Weaver says. In short: iPads might make gambling legit.

Pulltab outlets in the past (as in paper pulltabs) have traditionally been small businesses — locally owned bars or service clubs — but their numbers have been ebbing in recent years. The revenue predictions offered by state officials were predicated on an resurgence of interest in the games, presuming that locations that dropped the pull tabs, or never had them in the first place, will offer the games and rake in the revenue to pay off the state’s stadium bonds.