Gaming Studio, Inc.
Legislative Authorization Specifically Required
Gaming Studio primarily designs for neighborhood gaming venues - known as charitable gaming in Minnesota and North Dakota. In both of these states nonprofit organizations licensed by the gaming regulatory authority (Minnesota - Gambling Control Board and North Dakota - Gaming Division of the Attorney General's Office) conduct on-going gaming in bars and taverns using dedicated gaming employees. Essentially, the bars and taverns rent the organizations the space in which the gaming is conducted.
In both states, the primary game is "pull tabs," a paper ticket that is folded, banded or has a cover sheet which, when opened, requires a player to match pre-determined winning symbols. Quite similar to scratch tickets except for the mess. Minnesota has our wheel games played with a table as their only table game while North Dakota has "21" and our Pig Wheel® for table games. According to the ND Attorney General's office, 55 Pig Wheels (with tables) were in operation in North Dakota at the end of 2015. By end 2017, we anticipate 65.
The games played are very limited and any significant alteration to them requires enabling legislation. While we designed the wheel/table games operated in Minnesota to fit within a vague and convoluted statute in the mid-80s, our design was legislatively tested during three sessions ending in 1991. That was also the year we won authorizing legislation in North Dakota. Since then we have been attempting to gain authorization for electronic editions of the wheel games. These games resolve the spin bias inherent to mechanical wheels. Environmental changes in temperature and humidity in bars, causes wheel, especially large wheels, to lose balance. This requires an organization to carefully scrutinize the wheels every day before play begins and balance them as needed. Operators who spin the mechanical wheels day-in and day-out develop patterns, inadvertently or intentionally, that can be picked up and leveraged by players. Tickets in Minnesota are expensive to acquire, track, audit and they complicate operations that can lead to errors. We can save hundreds of tons of paper each year by moving from the existing one-ticket one-bet system to one-ticket all bets for up to 10 consecutive spins. With electronic wheels and tables, we can provide the social gaming experience with the technological flare that is more interesting to younger and newer players. We can actually provide far more entertaining features with electronics. Features that add value to play without requiring greater bets. The future can happen..........
In 2012, Minnesota inserted language authorizing electronic simulated wheels; however, the betting structure remained the expensive manual ticketing system whereby players bet by placing their tickets in slots associated with their desired bet. Despite the advantages of defeating the spin-bias inherent to mechanical wheels, the market for electronic simulated wheels, while still needing to be used with the old paper ticketing system, was too small and too expensive to attract production.
In 2013 a bill was introduced that would have modified the ticketing system used in betting from one ticket for each bet to one ticket that included all bets a player wished to make on a spin. This effectively would save over 95% of the regulated and very expensive paper that is currently used. While the paper is expensive, the cost of handling the paper tickets, each of which represent money, is also cumbersome and expensive. The bill was asked for by a vote of the trade association membership, Allied Charities of Minnesota (ACM). Just after introduction ACM was informed by tribal lobbyists that they would oppose the entire ACM bill if the wheel ticketing language were not removed. Who knew that wheel tickets were threatening? ACM removed the paddle wheel aspects of the bill.
In 2014 an independent bill addressing only the ticketing modifications and some structural/technical language that would have better allowed the one ticket - many bets system was introduced. Because it was the short session, the bill would not be heard. ACM Director stated: "Allied Charities of Minnesota does not have an issue with your product. If your bill gets a hearing we would testify in favor of it."
In 2015, we sought the same previous ticket modifications that would allow the one ticket many bets system and we added the electronic table to replace ticket-based tables. In addition we added language clearly providing the Control Board with regulatory authority over all aspects of the resulting games, including equipment. The introduction of the bill happened a few days prior to the first committee hearing deadline. The bills (H.F. 1798 and S.F.1738) are held over as introduced for the 2016 session.
In November of 2015, Allied Charities of Minnesota, board and general membership voted to endorse H.F.1798 and S.F.1738.
In January of 2016, Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association Executive Board endorsed H.F.1798 and S.F.1738.
In 2016, we relied on assurance given by the co-sponsor of our bill who is chairman of the House Committee on Commerce and Regulatory Reform that H.F. 1798 would receive a timely (there are deadlines for bills passing out of committees) hearing if any gaming bills were heard in his committee. Gaming bills were heard and passed, with an electronic raffle device authorization among them. He stalled our bill being heard until after the deadline passed. He offered an "informational hearing" (hearing without vote) after the deadline in order that we could hear opposition to our legislation. The bill and transcript of the only two parties testifying against the bill is attached here. As you read the opposition, you realize they had little knowledge of paddlewheel games - those in play over the past 30 years. Tribes kept the bill from being heard because they could. They never argued that tribal casinos would be in any way injured by the modification to wagering. What compelling public policy was being served by Chairman Hoppe (R-Chaska) blocking a hearing on a bill he sponsored? Electronic bingo is played without the requirement of paper cards being used. Electronic pull tabs are played without paper tickets being used. So, why is this bill that reduces (allows those who prefer the existing table/tickets to continue) the use of paper tickets, provides greater regulation and reduces costs to organizations so different? It isn't. The bill offered by Representatives Lien (D-Moorhead) and Hoppe was effectively killed by Hoppe as a favor to tribes.
2017 [See Proposed MN Legislation]
Allied Charities of Minnesota Board of Directors and membership have graciously endorsed the 2017 legislation to modify the process for wagering on wheel games. This legislation is almost identical to that proposed in 2015/2016 with a few changes that are meant to explicitly assure that no player-activated wheels are resulting from the legislation. Thus, no wheels that can be loaded on a tablet or other mobile device (like an electronic pulltab) can be spun or otherwise played by players on their own. While we do not believe that such would be allowed in earlier legislation, it was one of the worries expressed and we simply put it to rest. The new edition also places prize limits of $500 per $1 or less wager and $1,000 on $2 wager basis.
In deference to Allied Charities of Minnesota's (ACM) stated interest of focusing entirely on tax reductions for charitable gaming in the 2017 session, we did not push the wheel wagering modification legislation. Unfortunately, ACM was unsuccessful in their attempt to win a tax reduction. Being able to offer existing games more economically is a bottom-line interest to organizations that we will pursue with ACM in 2018.
2018 [See Proposed MN Legislation]
We need Allied Charities of Minnesota to carry the wheel wagering modification legislation in 2018. There is a high likelihood of passage if they would step a little higher than their past "endorsements" to "sponsors."
Minnesota's only table game could sink into decline due to high costs of bet-handling. With the modifications, the game could become even more vital than ever. If you are an ACM member, please push your regional rep to move to sponsor the legislation they have previously endorsed. Charity bar owners want the charities to refresh their games - keep them interesting and vibrant. While charitable gaming in Minnesota is way over-taxed, you also need to grow or at least protect your market -- and that means innovate.
Contact Joe Richardson if your gaming committee or organization wish a presentation on this legislation. 701-388-3266. Should the legislation pass, Gaming Studio will base the resulting operation in Moorhead, MN. We anticipate fabrication in Lake Park, MN.
In 2015 the legislation that would have allowed electronic paddlewheels passed the Judiciary Committee but was defeated on the House floor as expansion of gaming.
Nokota Gaming System™ Statutorily Authorized in North Dakota
In 2017 expansion of gaming concerns were set aside with the introduction in the House of HB1216 authorizing the use of electronic pull tab gaming devices. After the public hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, the Committee received and passed an amendment to the original bill that would have required all electronic pulltab player terminals to be equipped with bill acceptors and that a paper edition of each electronic game offered would be required to be available to distributors in the state. Thus, the amendment would have effectively required kiosk style gaming terminals and would have required any manufacturer who did not, itself, produce paper pulltabs to enter into a production agreement with a paper pulltab manufacturer to produce a paper edition for each electronic game the electronic pulltab manufacturer wanted to release. If paper pulltab manufacturers (all four of them licensed in ND - none located in ND) refused to manufacture a complimentary paper game to an electronic game, at a price deemed even wildly reasonable, the electronic game could not be released. This tie-in supply requirement served no North Dakota public interest and in fact merely defended the control that existing paper manufacturers would have over charitable gaming in North Dakota. It would have precluded Gaming Studio, a North Dakota company, from effectively being able to produce Nokota Gaming System.
After HB1216 passed the House, as amended, and came to the Senate - Senator Carolyn Nelson isn't having the expensive anti-competitive House language that was largely amended in after the public hearing. Working with Joe at Gaming Studio (the only party to submit written and oral testimony against the House version of the bill) and with assists from CGAND, NDAD and the AGs office, Senator Nelson fixes it. Final HB1216 As passed by ND Legislture. Senate Judiciary Chairman Armstrong's very fair and reasonable handling of the matter was commendable as well. The House accepted the Senate modifications thanks to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Koppelman's allowing the Senate version to go to the floor without a conference committee. Charitable organizations can and should Thank Senator Nelson.
North Dakota meets every two years. Thus, January 2019 is the next session. We already have author commitments for the legislation and suspect that it will have a far easier time passing now that electronic pull tabs went through with such a high vote total in 2017.
Other associated Websites
Gaming Studio, Inc. Post Office Box 3112, Fargo, ND 58108-3112
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org 701-388-3266
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