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Rochester VFW fears pending state ruling on electronic gambling may harm charity

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Though legal gambling is becoming increasingly more popular nationwide, charities in Minnesota may be running into some regulatory trouble. The state Senate held a hearing Wednesday on the functionality of electronic pull tabs, or e pull tabs, which could negatively impact charities and the businesses hosting them across the state.

The Minnesota legislature is reacting to a state judge's ruling a year ago about whether or not e pull tabs too closely resemble slot machines. The judge ruled they don't. The bill before the Senate would further regulate their use.

Electronic pull-tabs are considered an important way for charities such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) to gain much needed funds.

"This is just one more option for them to do charitable gambling. It helps the VFW a great deal because it's charitable gambling. a large percentage of charitable gambling proceeds, they go to fund veteran's activities, youth activities that this post sponsors, and it keeps money in the local community where that money belongs," said Chad Stowers, gambling manager and Jr. Vice Commander of VFW Post 215.

The issue with e pull tabs is that native tribes view them as taking away their income. Because of the technology and makeup of e pull tabs, tribes are worried people will skip out on the casinos and instead, spend their money on these devices. If the government does not further regulate e pull tab use, casinos fear they may be in financial trouble.

"Electronic pull tabs do not mimic slot machines. They never have. So, why is this legislation? This seems like a solution looking for a problem," said Stowers.

Even though Minnesota's Native American population is the only group allowed to operate slot machines, the VFW says that shouldn't matter, because e pull tabs are completely different.

"Electronics are clean, they're simple, we are a techy world, they're very techy, they're just fun to do, and they help the local community. So, you should try them and see if you like them," said Stowers.

Members of the VFW believe this initiative, already passed by the Minnesota House, is strictly a political one.

"It's all about money. The first year, electronics made $16 million for the state. Now, it's up to over $579 million for the state. People want a piece of that money," said Stowers.

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Noah Caplan

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