Casino bill draws little attention

A Twin Cities casino could fund the University’s new stadium plans.

A state legislator’s plan to build an on-campus, Gophers-only football stadium using gambling money is receiving little attention at the Capitol.

Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, wants the state to sell a gaming license to a private corporation, such as Caesars Entertainment, for a one-time fee of $450 million, allowing the company to build a casino complex in the Twin Cities.

The money would be used to construct stadiums for the Twins, Vikings and Gophers, with the teams paying back 40 percent of their respective stadium costs over time.

Hackbarth proposed the bill Feb. 2, but so far it has gone nowhere.

“Nobody seems to want to look at this thing,” Hackbarth said. “I’ve shown it to the governor, I’ve shown it to our House leadership, but nobody seems to want to take any action on it.”

Because the University has not shown interest in the proposal, it might be dropped from the bill, Hackbarth said.

“The University claims it doesn’t need to be part of this,” he said. “They don’t want any money from the state Ö so let them do their own thing.”

But University chief financial officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said the University needs state funding and is interested in any bill that would help build a football stadium.

The University does not take positions on where state funding comes from, whether it is from taxes or gambling, Pfutzenreuter said. He said Hackbarth might have taken that as disinterest.

Athletics Director Joel Maturi said he has not seen the bill.

Increased gaming has faced opposition, but Hackbarth said tribal casinos are constantly expanding. The state should also be allowed to cash in on gambling revenues, he said.

“I say it’s time we put one privately owned casino in the metropolitan area somewhere and start taking advantage of some of that gambling money to help out the state and the state’s taxpayers,” Hackbarth said.

The bill requires a constitutional amendment because the state only allows tribal casinos, he said.

Many who support using gambling to increase state revenue prefer the money go toward other state needs such as education.

Rep. Lynda Boudreau, R-Faribault, recently proposed a rival gambling bill that would use money from a private casino license to give academic scholarships to Minnesota students.

Hackbarth’s bill will not garner much support, Boudreau said.

“I think it’s a creative idea,” she said, “but I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere.”

House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said he prefers Boudreau’s bill to Hackbarth’s, but would support any bill that generates gaming revenue through competition with tribal casinos.

A Senate bill calling for the state to contribute 25 percent of the $222 million needed for a Gophers football stadium will receive its first committee hearing April 19.