Saturday, December 20, 2008

Missouri walks away from pull-tab games

By RICK ALM
The Kansas City Star

Missouri is pulling the plug on pull-tab gambling.
Declining sales have forced an end to the once-popular “pickles” or “paper slots,” sold for years at state-licensed bingo parlors and dispensed over the counter or through vending machines at 172 bars, bowling alleys and other venues around the state. They were once sold at more than 700 places.
“We’ve been watching it for a couple of years now,” Missouri Lottery director Larry Jansen said Wednesday. “Nationwide pull-tab sales are down. Players are just walking away from it.”
In Missouri, pull-tab sales have been eroding for a decade, slipping to a tad more than $15 million in the 2008 fiscal year, down from $17.4 million a year earlier and a peak of $29 million in the late 1990s.
Lottery commissioners agreed recently to liquidate the remaining inventory of pull-tab games at half price to retailers who will sell them until they’re all gone. Pull-tab vending machines already are starting to disappear from retail locations.
Pull tabs, which sell for 25 cents to a dollar, offer prizes up to $1,000. Players peel away a series of paper tabs to reveal symbols — arranged like slot machine reels — that award predetermined prizes based on each game’s rules for various combinations and alignments of symbols.
On the upside, Jansen said the Missouri Lottery expects by March to roll out “Lucky Dough,” a new online instant game that will be sandwiched every five minutes between Keno drawings — doubling the online action for players in social environments such as bars where the games are typically played using television monitors.
Game details haven’t been revealed yet, but Jansen said Lucky Dough will be based on a tic-tac-toe format.
To reach Rick Alm, call 816-234-4785 or send e-mail to ralm@kcstar.com.
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