An electronic bingo game debuted this week which is connecting bar patrons across the state of Minnesota. Electronic, or “linked” MegaBingo, lets players compete throughout the upper Midwest state against one another with a shared jackpot.

An upgrade in state law last year enables vendors, including Multimedia Games, of Austin, Texas, to network participating charitable bingo outlets to create one big ongoing game broadcast on closed-circuit televisions.

“This is not your grandma’s bingo game, where you used corn to cover your numbers,” says Karen Wirkus, sales manager at MegaBingo, a South St. Paul-based subsidiary of Multimedia Games.

According to Mary Perren, manager of the Cottage Grove Bingo Hall, which raises money for the local athletic association, networked MegaBingo has attracted many more patrons to her bingo hall, and she expects more of the same.

“The exciting thing is that we could have jackpots of $10,000 or $15,000 or $20,000,” she says. “Who wouldn’t want to win that kind of money?”

Gamblers like Adam Ford, 31, of Minneapolis, was one of about 80 people who played MegaBingo at Rascals Bar & Grill in Apple Valley who were excited about the huge pot.

“It’s always good any time you have a huge payout,” Ford says. “It’s better than pull-tabs.”

About 3,000 cards were sold across the state for a jackpot totaling $1,651, according to the state. No one won the prize, however, and that means half the pot will carry over. The other half was won by a player in Little Canada.

The MegaBingo game may help increase the take among bingo halls and bars.

“This game should help us keep players in our own geographic area, so they won’t have to travel to different parts of the Twin Cities for the bigger progressive pots,” she says.

MegaBingo is the lone provider of “linked” bingo games in the state, though other firms have expressed an interest in doing so, said Tom Barrett, director of the state’s gambling control board.

Minnesota is the only state in the U.S. with linked bingo that benefits charities, he notes. The game is just part of the nightly bar-bingo scene, which has seen a boon in the past year as state regulations have eased.

Experts say there’s no limit to the pot — the more people play, the bigger it is. Wirkus sees it maxing out around $25,000 or $30,000, though. By contrast, traditional progressive bingo games are capped at $2,000 at each site, according to experts.