And that’s not just in terms of bets per machine or the revenue per site — common measurements that were initially used to estimate the revenue.
The May numbers were down 5 percent from that, according to the latest data from the Minnesota Gambling Control Board. And that followed a 13 percent decline from March to April.
“Part of the issue is that March was, like a Super March,” says Jon Weaver, founder of Express Games, the state’s first and biggest distributor of electronic pulltabs, in terms of sales. “We had give weekends in March, and just four in April. So that’s part of it. But our numbers are down.”
So, has Minnesota already seen the “peak” in electronic pulltab gambling?
“No, no, no. I don’t think so,” Weaver says. “I have no doubt in my mind that we’ll see the numbers come back.” He says the warmer months are traditionally the slowest, and the games are still in barely 10 percent of the eligible locations.
The state’s charitable gambling trade group, Allied Charities of Minnesota, is also holding an 8-city “road show” hoping to highlight the games and get more of the state’s 1,200 charities to sign on to the idea
Still, the decline came despite a 10 percent expansion of the number of sites offering the games in Minnesota. Here’s the blow-by-blow detail of what the numbers from the Minnesota Gambling Control Board looked like last month (click for a larger version):
Gambling officials are at something of a loss to explain the dip, although one suspect is a spike in gas prices. One of the electronic pulltab distributors actually sold nothing at all on 10 different days in May, nearly a third of the month.
And the numbers remain vastly different from state expectations. Estimates lawmakers were looking at last year suggested the games would take in more than $100 million in bets a month, and they’re down to less than 2 percent of that number now. Each of the machines were also expected to take in $225 a day in bets, and they’re down to about $56, a sign that it’s not just the well-known difficulty of getting the games in gambler’s hands — but a potential demand issue, particularly for the latest entries into the market.
In the meantime, Gov. Mark Dayton has already signed off on the solution to the stadium funding conundrum. The tax bill and a new cigarette tax are expected to raise enough money to replenish the state’s coffers sufficiently to cover the debt payments on the $350 million the state is borrowing for the new stadium.