Herald JournalHerald Journal, July 7, 2003

Pull tabs sales impact community organizations

By Julie Yurek

Decreased pull tab sales reduces the amount of monetary aid non-profit groups give to community organizations.

Sales have been down for most organizations since mid-2002.

The Lester Prairie Fire Department Relief Association, the Hollywood Booster Club, and the Lester Prairie Lions Club have all experienced low pull tab sales recently.

The Lester Prairie Fire Department Relief Association sells pull tabs at the Dodge House in Lester Prairie.

Sales were down since October, said Gambling Manager Paul Christensen.

Sales did recover in May and June, he said.

For a while, sales were down 50 to 75 percent, from eight boxes a month to two boxes. Eight boxes is a great month, Christensen said.

"It was to the point where we were losing money with two boxes a month," he said. "It's healthier now. Back to normal."

The money the relief association makes from pull tab sales goes to Lester Prairie youth baseball and softball, after prom party, and fire department equipment that benefits the entire fire district, including townships, Christensen said.

"If we didn't have pull tabs, people would pay more out of pocket, both in the city and out," he said.

The state strongly regulates pull tab gambling, Christensen said.

Organizations must pay the bar/restaurant where the pull tabs are sold up to 20 percent of gross profits to the establishment, he said.

Pull tab sales for the Hollywood Booster Club were down at one site and holding its own at the other site, said Chairman Paul Engelhart.

The club sells pull tabs at the Hollywood Sports Complex and the Hollywood Ranch House.

The club raises between $35,000 and $40,000 a year, mostly from pull tab sales, for youth groups, scholarships at the Watertown-Mayer High School and the Waconia High School, the Carver, Dakota, and Scott County Food Shelf, and the Red Cross, Engelhart said.

"If it weren't for pull tabs, we wouldn't have much (money) to give," said Bruce Johnson, member of the booster club.

Participants wouldn't be able to afford to be in the youth sports activites, he said.

The club does conduct one to two fundraisers a year also, normally dances or a golf tournament.

Proceeds from the door or entry fee goes to organ transplant recipents or the New Germany Fire Department, he said.

The Lester Prairie Lions Club pull tabs sales are down between 10 and 20 percent, said Joe Miller, gambling manager.

Lions pull tabs are available at the Porthole in Lester Prairie. The Lions average sales of between five to six games per month, he said. It's been down to three and four games a month lately, he said.

When only three or four games are sold a month, it starts eating into donation money. Expenses are still there and aren't covered 100 percent those months, so they must be paid out of the donation portion of the profits, Miller said.

"It's still the best fundraiser we have as an organization," he said.

Miller cites the economy as the reason for the decreased sales. "People are spending less," he said.

The Lions do have other ways to raise money. The pancake breakfasts the club organizes are usually for a specific person or organization. The pull tab money is given out to organizations throughout Lester Prairie, Miller said.

Organizations within the city that receive money from the Lions include youth baseball and softball, the Lester Prairie Schools, after prom party, city parks, National Honor Society, and the student council.

The Lions also host the Easter egg hunt and the bike rodeo and provide the bags of goodies at the Lester Prairie Festival in December.

The Lions donate more than $10,000 per year to community organizations, Miller said.

Miller sees the state's 20 percent cap on paying bar/restaurants for selling pull tabs as a benefit to the smaller clubs like the Lions, he said.

It helps those organizations that don't make thousands of dollars a month, he said.

The cap will decrease the Lions' rent by about $100 per month, he said.

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