Gov. Mark Dayton harshly criticized a new proposal by House Republicans to rely on new gambling money from so-called sports tip boards to help pay for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium.
Dayton said the proposed tip boards – which can link charitable gambling to the outcomes of professional sporting events – are likely illegal under federal law and would not pass muster with bond houses that will be needed to finance construction of a new stadium.
“It doesn’t strike me at first glance as a viable option,” Dayton said Monday.
The DFL governor said, however, he was encouraged that House leaders have become more engaged in stadium negotiations during the chaotic and uncertain final weeks of the legislative session. The House Commerce Committee has its first hearing on the charitable gambling component of the agreement Monday night.
“The coin is flipping in the air and I don’t know whether it is going to come down heads or tails,” Dayton said.
The stadium project has barely budged through much of the legislative session. It has been dogged by financing problems, opposition from charities and a lack of a drive among many legislators to complete the nearly $1 billion taxpayer-funded stadium during an election year.
On Sunday, House Republicans announced a deal that would give charities a larger take from the proposed expansion of electronic pull tabs, bingo and tip boards to pay the state’s nearly $400 million share of a new stadium. If the new gambling revenue doesn't hit projections, House Republicans propose taxing luxury suites at the stadium, a new scratch-off lottery ticket or tap excess Hennepin County sales tax money to make up the shortfall.
Dayton said he learned of the agreement in the media and that it was “very disappointing” that House Republicans did not consult his administration during negotiations.
The administration had been trying to work out its own agreement with charities to dull opposition. House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, has said in particular he was troubled that charities weren't getting more out of the deal.
Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans made a last offer to the charities a week ago, but Dayton said they never got back to his administration.
“I think they found the best negotiating channel was with the speaker,” Dayton said.
The governor has been the strongest supporter of the stadium proposal at the Capitol and his staff has spent “thousands of hours” brokering an agreement with the team and local government leader. Some Republicans have said they envision a scenario in which Dayton might trade their support for a stadium in exchange for his approval of education and government reform provisions he has spoken against.
“No one has approached me with any of those suggestions or offers,” Dayton said. “I have heard the rumors, but nothing at this point has come to pass.”