Electronic bingo held at square one

Jon Latcham owns 3 Diamond, the state’s largest pull tab distributor

The much anticipated boost for charitable gambling in Minnesota — electronic linked bingo games — may be as much as another month away from helping fund a Vikings stadium.

Some electronic pull tab backers have said that the bingo games, with prizes that could hit six figures, will provide the critical mass to ignite electronic gambling in Minnesota. Revenues for electronic pull tabs have been far behind projections so far. Some worry that will hamper funding for future stadium bonds the state is planning to use to finance its share of a new home for the Vikings.

“Two vendors have been approved, in terms of license, designing the game, getting the game tested,” said Tom Barrett, executive director of the Minnesota Gambling Control Board. “The unfortunate thing is that those two vendors have not provided the board with the final game design, the confirmed testing lab report that says their system, their devices, meet the standards that were established by the board.”

Barrett said that bingo could be ready for approval in March.

The Minnesota Gambling Control Board officials also said Tuesday that a leading contender to sell the games, 3 Diamond Corporation, still doesn’t have its paperwork in order, and put off a decision until its March 18 regular meeting, although board staff left the door open for a special meeting in the interim.

The delay brought an extended public comment from Shoreview-based 3 Diamond’s owner, Jon Latcham. He decried the regulatory process that could now take as much as six months to get through.

“What you have to understand is that every time we’ve had something new come into the industry, there’s never been anything attached to it like a stadium. And it’s all about the money here,” Latcham said in an interview later.

 

He blamed the need for stadium financing for what he described as a vague and poorly executed regulatory process. And Latcham says bingo is key to his system, because he has the only electronic gambling devices that will offer both pull tabs and bingo.
In the meantime, 3 Diamond’s principal rival in the electronic gambling business, Express Games, says gambling revenue is up 24 percent, month over month, for the first half of February. That follows a holiday season.

“From our perspective, we feel like we are very much within the zip code of what the state was anticipating from a daily revenue perspective, and we’re seeing… an actual growth in revenues on a per-device basis.”