500 e-tab machines have been shut down in ND

Published: Jul. 10, 2020 at 9:53 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Nonprofits in North Dakota have benefitted from charitable gaming for more than 40 years.

But with bars and restaurants shut down during the pandemic, nobody has been playing.

This has resulted in a $4 million loss for charities across the state.

The first electronic pull tab machine was installed less than two years ago, and since then, demand has drastically increased. Now, there are more than 2,500 e-tab machines in the state, yielding nearly $36 million dollars for charitable organizations in the last fiscal year.

But just as businesses reopen and machines turn back on, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has announced the immediate shutdown of nearly 500 e-tab machines.

The Attorney General’s office is pulling the plug on Powerhouse, one of the five companies licensed to distribute e-tab machines in the state.

The AG’s office was made aware of an issue with the company after Microsoft’s lawyers said Powerhouse was using illegal or pirated software.

“They’ll have to show satisfactory proof to me that they’re all properly licensed before I will even consider whether I should lift the suspension,” said North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

With charitable organizations already losing money during the pandemic, pulling the plug on those machines could further reduce charitable gaming receipts.

“The more revenue you’re making and with a shutdown, you’re going to have a larger shortfall, certainly with that. The big issue right now some of the other game types, such as bingo, we’re running in limited capacities and still until this point we’re running at limited capacity,” said Charitable Gaming Association President Janelle Mitzel.

With some e-tab machines shutdown and other games limited because of the pandemic, charitable revenues could continue to struggle. But there may be some luck in the cards.

“The month of May, the middle of the pandemic, was the top producing month since electronic pull tabs were introduced in North Dakota,” said Stenehjem.

Stenehjem says he expects the e-tab machines’ popularity to continue to grow in the future.

The shutdown of the nearly 500 e-tab machines is temporary. But Stenehjem says the suspension of Powerhouse’s license will continue until they can give proof they are following proper gaming regulations.

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