Legion taking over VFW pull-tabs

After 16 years of the Princeton VFW Auxiliary selling pull-tabs at Princeton VFW Post 806, the organization is giving up its charitable gambling license this Saturday, March 31.

Princeton’s Woodcock-Herbst American Legion Post 216 will be renting the spot to sell pull-tabs there starting April 1 under the Legion post’s charitable gambling license.

The Legion currently has a pull-tab sales concession at Steven’s Restaurant in downtown Princeton.

The VFW post had its own license for many years to sell pull-tabs, but gave it up nearly two decades ago after the post’s gambling manager was convicted of stealing from the VFW’s pull-tab fund.

In the wake of that chapter, the VFW Auxiliary began running the pull-tab operation at the VFW post.

Some changes, meanwhile, have occurred with the American Legion post. It sold its post building that is now occupied by Steven’s Restaurant and catering business. The post conducts its business meetings and other post activities at the VFW club.

Woodcock-Herbst American Legion Post 216 also has the licensing to run bingo games and plans to run those at the VFW club, as well.

The reason the VFW Auxiliary is ending its charitable gambling license, is because Princeton VFW Auxiliary gambling manager Cheryl Goetz-Dobson is retiring from the job after 15 years. The Auxiliary didn’t have takers for the job and so decided to give up the license.

Goetz-Dobson declined to be quoted for this story. But she told Union-Eagle editor Jeff Hage during an interview about dispersing the remaining Princeton VFW Auxiliary funds available for charitable giving: “I’m proud of my auxiliary because they’ve been overly generous with the funds they’ve donated.”

Among groups that the Princeton VFW Auxiliary gave checks to out of its charitable gambling account last week were the local food shelf, Family Pathways, the Developmental Achievement Center, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, VA medical center, historical society and to a city civic center remodeling project.

“It’s a sad end to a wonderful commitment,” Goetz-Dobson said about the VFW Auxiliary giving up its license.

But one loss is another gain for the community in this case. As Princeton VFW Post 806 Quartermaster Jim Dalziel explained last Saturday, the local American Legion post is well known for its generous charitable giving, especially for youth activities, including scholarships.


Snapshot of local charitable gambling sales

Here is a look at charitable gambling sales by organization in Princeton in fiscal year 2011, which means it goes from the last half of 2010 through the first half of 2011.

Mystic Riders Snowmobile Club – $4.25 million

Princeton Youth Hockey Association – $685,622

Princeton Jaycees – $673,935

Princeton VFW Auxiliary – $377,701

American Legion Post 216 – $177,022

Moose Lodge 2331 – $27,916.

Charitable gambling sales used to be considerably higher a decade ago for Princeton-area nonprofits based on studies the Union-Eagle did over the years. The decade decline has actually been statewide, according to Gary Danger, the Minnesota Gambling Control Board’s compliance manager.

That decline has been caused largely by the economy, with charitable gambling sales tied in with economic conditions, Danger said. Another effect that came in later was when Minnesota passed a law about five years ago banning smoking in restaurants and bars statewide, Danger added.

Tougher DWI laws have also had some effect, he said.

The sale of pull-tabs was made legal in Minnesota in 1981, but their sales really took off in 1985 when Minnesota passed a law making it legal for nonprofit organizations who do not own a building, to still have gambling concessions, Danger said. That meant groups like youth hockey and fire relief organizations could have concessions in various places, Danger said.

The peak in all forms of charitable gambling in Minnesota was in about 2000 and 2001, with pull-tabs by far the greatest moneymaker. The total charitable gambling gross receipts in fiscal year 2001 across Minnesota totaled $1.43 billion. It steadily decreased to where fiscal year 2010 receipts were at $980.14 million.

Danger said the sales have now been picking up to where fiscal year 2011 had $990 million. Total sales in calendar year 2010 were $973 million, and reached more than $1 billion in calendar year 2011. Still, the sales are far below what they once were and the economy is still weak in various sectors.

But the monthly sales are also greater now across the state than in the same period a year ago, Danger added. That could possibly reflect some increased confidence in the economy.

“It’s been slow,” local Legion Commander Jerry Whitcomb said last week about charitable gambling sales for the Legion post compared to years ago. “I think it’s slow all over, with the economy and everything.”

But another factor can be circumstances, such as where the pull-tab concession is located.

The Legion post still does some pull-tab sales at Steven’s Restaurant but it has a different clientele compared to when the building was more bar-oriented, Whitcomb said.

Criminal acts can also be a factor in the history of charitable gambling, and not just from the inside. Princeton Youth Hockey Association opened a pull-tab concession at the Madre Loca Mexican Restaurant in Princeton within the past few years. But according to a PYHA member, the organization is pulling out of there. Madre Loca had a burglary about a year ago, resulting in a theft at the pull-tab concession. With all the red tape that occurs because of the state having to check everything out, the pull-tab concession was shut down there for some time. Now the PYHA just decided to not resume selling pull-tabs at Madre Loca again.

But PYHA is an example of where an organization may have many pull-tab concessions. PYHA sells pull tabs at Shooters Sports Bar, Bud’s Place, Jiggers, Princeton Golf Course, Princeton Lanes, Old Log Liquor, and a new one for PYHA, the Fairway Shores golf facility.

Luther Dorr, the gambling manager for the American Legion Post, notes that its charitable gambling operation is small compared to the many local ones who do have pull-tab concessions at many places.