GOP: No gambling expansion for Vikings stadium

by Nickalas Tabbert

A group of GOP legislatures expressed their opposition towards a proposed expansion of charitable gambling to pay for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium.

About a half-dozen legislators outlined their doubts Thursday that new charitable gambling would bring in enough money to pay the state's $398 million share of a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis, the Star Tribune said.

"This project is based on some very sketchy assumptions," said state Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie.

Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, said he will introduce an amendment that would pay the state's share through an income tax hike on players and a menu of other stadium-related tax increases.

Benson faces opposition from his own party, as many members haven't rushed to embrace his plan publicly.

There is still time to retool the stadium deal, said Benson, who wants to see the team stay in Minnesota.

"The Vikings are not going anywhere in the next several months," he said.

The amendment is designed to "start a conversation" about other ways to pay for the stadium, Benson said.

Benson and Hann doubt that allowing electronic pull-tabs, bingo and sports-related tip boards will pay the state's $42 million a year debt payment for the new stadium, the Tribune said.  They say Minnesota restaurants and bars would need to add 25,000 of the devices and run them around the clock to meet the state's estimates.

"As a society, we need to ask ourselves if we really want to introduce a whole new generation of Minnesotans to the addiction of gambling," Benson said.

Benson and Hann represent a powerful faction of Republicans firmly opposed to gambling expansion, whether it is for charity, adding slots at horse-racing tracks or allowing casino-style gambling outside Native American reservations.

Many Republicans have become more open to the idea, saying everyone should be free to decide how to spend their recreational money, the Tribune said. Others are determined to break up the tribal gambling monopolies.

"Everybody has to suck it up and get it passed," Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, said in an interview. "My constituents are saying pass this thing, and do whatever it takes, short of having it come out of our pockets."