Gaming Studio, Inc.

Electronic Pull-Tab Definition

Definition of Electronic Pull Tab demonstrates strong competitive opportunity over slot machines

Definition of Electronic or

Video Pull-Tab Game

(as known and played in Minnesota and North Dakota)


Electronic games of chance each composed of fixed, predetermined and published quantity of chances, among which there are fixed, predetermined and published quantity of winning chances that pay a predetermined and published prize or multiple of the cost of a single chance.


Each set of chances as defined above, that use or have the same:

     1)  title;

     2)  contain the same quantity of chances;

     3)  the same winning symbols;

     4)  the same quantity of winning chances;

     5)  having the same prize amount or that pay the same multiple

          of the cost of a chance as a prize; and,

     6)  having the same payout percentage when all chances are sold

           and redeemed

shall be referred to as a “game lot.”


[note:  in past legislative and administrative rule language for paper-based pull-tabs “game lot” is referred to as “deal.”  The term “deal” appears to be an archaic misnomer that blurs pull-tabs with games that use a deck of cards. We need not perpetuate “deal” any further.]


As with the paper pull-tab, the following information is posted and available prior to players engaging in play:


     1)  quantity of chances contained in each game lot;

     2)  quantity of winning chances at each prize level prior to any

           play having been conducted in the game lot;

     3)  quantity of major winning chances, valued at or above 50x the

           price of a single chance, remaining available at any given time

           among all of the chances available in a given game lot.

     4)  quantity of chances remaining as expressed in rough terms

          +/- 5 or +/- 10% at any given time during play;

     5)  prize payout percentage expressed as if all chances were sold;

     6)  actual average prize payout percentage after twelve game lots

          have been sold for the same game title and form; and

     7)  examples of the symbols that are designated as winning at each

          prize payout level.


    No prize should involve an award to play another game or round of the current game.  On-the-way prizes or tiered qualification to play deeper and deeper only exasperates the problem gaming.


       No prize should be valued greater than $500 or an amount that players view as redemptive (recovery) of all their past losses.  We do not need to prey on people who would dig their hole deeper attempting a long-shot on recovering past losses. This is particularly dangerous with fast action games (those with event resolutions every 15 seconds or less).  As designers, our entertainment sequence should stand on its own, earning player interest without preying on the intoxication of heightened stimulation in those for whom restraint may come hard.


   Electronic pull-tab game lots remain offered for play until the last “major win,” as defined as prizes being equal or greater 50x the price of the chance for which the payout resulted.  Once the last “major win” has been redeemed that particular deal automatically retires out of play and a new game lot is .  An alternative trigger for deal retirement may be devised that triggers a retirement of a game lot by, for instance, calculating the time that has passed will an amount of play below a certain level while the quantity of major winners remaining are less than x.  So long as players are told of the alternative trigger and it is applied to all game lots and not arbitrarily triggered, the math can be worked out and it can aid in keeping games fair and attractive.


All electronic terminals on a site should be able to access any game lot that is available to any other terminal on the site.


The above work on a definition for electronic pull-tab has been written by Joe Richardson of Gaming Studio, Inc. based on his experience having operated games of chance in 1981 and as founder of Great Gamble, once a manufacturer of pull-tab games and the inventor of the first patented electronic pull-tab style game [U.S. patent 5,042,809 filed in 1990 and granted in 1991 with foreign patents issued in Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, Brazil, and Venezuela.]  The patents have expired; however, the concept does remain the valid.

Discussion of Electronic Pull-Tab Definition


    Background:  North Dakota (CY’12 - $159,317,000 sales before payout of prizes amounting to 78.93% of bet) and Minnesota (FY’12 - $969,131,000 sales before prize of 82.8% were paid) are the leading pull-tab vending states/jurisdictions in the world.  North Dakota is number one in per-capita volume while Minnesota is number one in volume overall.  Neither state has a pull-tab manufacturing facility located within their state, hence both import hundreds of tons of the little tickets that are opened within a couple of seconds and then shredded (winning chances are kept in storage for future audits).  They are not recyclable.  In both states, pull-tabs are vended in bars and restaurants, with salaried employees of nonprofit organizations who raise serious amounts of program funding from their sale.


Jar bar and jars for dispensing paper pull tabs
Paper pull tab vending containers
Paper pull tabs popular style in Minnesota

Pull-tabs are quite unique among games of chance, as played in Minnesota and North Dakota.  Unfortunately, those who have limited knowledge of games of chance often mistake this game as being “paper slots” merely because traditional slot symbols (bells, cherries, lemons, etc) are sometimes printed on pull-tab tickets.


Pull-tab v. Slots


Unfortunately the emotion surrounding anything  “gambling” often obscures a rational discussion over the difference among games.  Pull-tabs and slots are at near opposite ends of the games-of-chance design continuum.  They are fundamentally different.


Question: How many chances are in the game and how many are winning chances?


The above question can’t be answered for a slot machine and can be answered for a pull-tab game.  Slot machines are continuum-based probability devices versus pull-tab’s being finite-based probability games.  Huge difference that has nothing to do with the symbols used or the video method for displaying the random outcome that determines a winner or loser.  There is no end point in a continuum probability based game and there certainly is with pull tabs.  This is important to those concerned over problem gamers becoming pathological players.  Problem gamers can too easily fool themselves into believing that the very next chance will be the winner that recovers all of their past losses....”it has to be coming,”  “it is due to payout,” “with all that I put in, it is about to spill its guts,” ....  That is slot-talk.  With pull-tabs, the game lot is over when the last major winner has been redeemed.  Players know that they are starting over and it creates the pause that can make a difference.


A slot machine pays based on the combination of several random events, or sub-events, that in combination lead to determining a payout or not.  Electronic pull-tabs are one random calling a chance from those remaining in a finite pool of chances.  The video piece that reveals the outcome of the random event in a pull-tab can be something quite entertaining - thus, allowing for player tolerance in slowing the game down.  Slots are three-second resolution games from the time the player commits to the time they know the outcome.  That speed is what can get the brain chemistry going - leading to trouble.  Pull-tabs can be three-second games; however, I would suggest making them at least six-seconds.  If the entertainment sequence can’t hold a player for six-seconds, get a new designer.


The notion that a slot is spinning reels and that by mandating the resolution of a pull-tab random event not have the appearance of spinning symbols is a clarion declaration of naivety when it comes to games of chance.  It clearly misses the point and it places a very large burden on designers and regulatory officials, both of whom need to figure out what might constitute spinning symbols.


First Patent Granted for an Electronic Pull-Tab System

Background Note:  Joe Richardson was the inventor and recipient of the first U.S. (submitted 1990 – issued 1991 No. 5,042,809) and foreign patents (Australia, Japan, Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico and Canada) on finite probability games that are essentially electronic pull tabs.  Since its U.S. patent issue, 5,042,809 has been cited in over 78 patents issued just to International Game Technology, Inc (IGT), in addition to a number of patents issued to Bally Gaming, Infinational, Multimedia Games, Walker Digital, MGM Grand, GameTech International, GTech Rhode Island Corporation and Mikohn Gaming among others.  As owner of Great Gamble, he engaged in producing pull tabs in 1983 (after producing three games they found they could not compete on price).

First patent for electronic pull tab system

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