Running Aces to add pull-tabs to stable

Youth Service Bureau to benefit from partnership with Columbus horse track

Paul Rignell
Columbus Reporter

Running Aces Harness Park has the blessing of the City of Columbus to expand its gaming and entertainment options. The City Council voted Nov. 28 to amend the facility’s conditional use permit and allow charitable sales of paper and electronic pull-tabs.

The council also passed a resolution approving Lakes Area Youth Service Bureau, based in Forest Lake but also serving youth and families throughout School District 831 and Chisago County, as the permit holder to manage and benefit from most of the net proceeds to be collected through pull-tab sales at Running Aces.

Columbus will have the right to 10 percent of LAYSB’s net receipts from the activity; the City Council voted last summer, allowed by a new state statute passed early this year, to create a “City of Columbus” fund for its share. Columbus may use those dollars either for its own charitable contributions, or for purchases related to public safety. The city could choose to refund some of the money to LAYSB, for which Columbus otherwise has reduced its official support by more than two-thirds in two years, from $6,180 in 2011 to $2,000 in the 2013 general fund budget, to help in holding down the city levy.

For now, Running Aces and LAYSB await approval and licensure for their roles from the Minnesota Gambling Control Board. The partners hope to have pull-tab gaming open in Columbus by Jan. 1.

“We’re very happy to have the Youth Service Bureau as a partner in this enterprise,” John Derus, a Running Aces board member, told the Forest Lake Times. He had also taken questions from Columbus officials at their Nov. 28 meeting. “They do good work,” Derus added of LAYSB. “They’re very well-regarded in the Forest Lake area.”

LAYSB’s programs include counseling, parent education, youth enrichment and mentoring, and Community Justice, where youths who have gotten into trouble by committing misdemeanor crimes may arrange to work community service hours and meet other obligations in order to clear a shoplifting charge, for example, from their records.

Jeanne Walz, LAYSB Executive Director, noted the organization has had no previous charitable gaming partnership with any entity, and that this was becoming a necessary choice though one that required much board discussion, partly because Columbus has hardly been the only contributor to reduce or cut its past support.

“As we look for alternative funding, (Running Aces’ offer) was something we had to consider,” Walz said. “This is a wonderful opportunity, but not something we would get into without careful consideration. There was a long, hard discussion.”

She said Running Aces has been a friend to LAYSB from the harness park’s start in Columbus, including hosting some of the program’s annual gala benefits. “I think they’re very interested in helping youth,” she said.

Walz added that the introduction of electronic pull-tab gaming was a key deciding factor in LAYSB agreeing to this new form of partnership. Running Aces patrons who participate in the activity may pay an amount of money to be credited on a handheld gaming device, which they may take from the point of sale to play and enjoy in designated areas elsewhere on the premises. (Nothing is set, but Derus said the pull-tab gaming may be contained to the upper bar area that is central to the racing track and card gaming room.)

As a patron may win on an electronic pull-tab, or “E-tab,” their winnings would be added to their gaming credit and they could return the device for any remaining cash balance during their visit.