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Celts brings electronic pull tabs to Farmington

John Klaus plays electronic pull tabs Friday afternoon at Celts Pub in Farmington. Celts owner Brandon Barth has added the devices in Farmington but not at Celts locations in Rosemount or Inver Grove Heights.

Charitable gambling is going high tech in Farmington.

Celts Pub last week joined the growing list of Minnesota locations offering electronic pull tabs in addition to the traditional paper variety. It is one of just a handful of locations in Dakota County to offer the devices, which were approved last year as a way to pay for the state's share of a new Vikings stadium. The Rosemount American Legion started offering e-tabs in December and was the first location in either Farmington or Rosemount to do so.

That slow spread has been a point of contention for some. Celts owner Brandon Barth said he waited until now to add the devices because he was waiting for the company that provides the bar's paper pull tabs to get approval.

So far, Celts has four of the devices, which look like beefed-up iPads. Each device offers 10 games, Players leave their driver's license and the amount of cash they want to play at the bar when they check them out, then can switch among the games as much as they want until their money runs out or they get tired of playing.

So far, Barth said, people seem to be enjoying themselves. Where paper pull tabs can sometimes become a solitary activity, he often sees people playing the electronic version together.

Barth and his employees visited other bars to do research on the devices before he brought them to Celts.

"They're pretty fun," he said. "Normal pull tabs, people will play by themselves. These are fun because it's a video screen and you can have two or three people put money in, have it loaded up and you pass it back and forth and have fun with it."

Not everybody is a fan just yet, though. While Barth said people have been discovering the e-tabs, the devices have their detractors. Some don't like that the money they bring in is tied to the stadium. Others don't like the additional uncertainty compared to paper pull tabs. Unlike the paper version, where big-ticket winners are crossed off as they are claimed, there is nothing connected to the e-tabs to let players know how many winners still there for them.

"When you don't know what winners are left in, you don't play," said Celts patron Amy Peterson.

But Barth said when people give the e-tabs a chance, they enjoy themselves. If one person starts playing, others often follow along.

"The biggest thing is, you've just got to get people to try it. It's fun. I don't know why everyone was so negative about it at first," he said.

Barth also owns Celts Pubs in Rosemount and Inver Grove Heights, but for now he is only adding the e-tabs in Farmington. He currently has four of the devices and he can have up to six.

For some, the bigger draw might come in a few weeks when the state gives the OK for statewide networked Bingo games on the devices. Once that is up and running, there will be new games all day as long as there are people interested in playing.

Money for the pull tabs at Celts goes to local causes including the hockey association and the Farmington senior class party.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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