Thank you to Gov. Mark Dayton for his thoughts on building a people's stadium ("It's time to get serious about Vikes stadium," Nov. 13) for the economic and social benefit of all Minnesotans.
Questions about stadium location, public uses and control of operations need to be settled quickly if we are going to address this issue before the Vikings' current lease runs out. We believe it is unlikely that the Legislature will pass a stadium bill unless these issues are resolved in a satisfactory way.
However, there should be no debate remaining about the best plan for financing of the stadium. Minnesotans overwhelmingly support racinos as the way to build the new home for the Minnesota Vikings.
We urge the governor to join us and support the only plan we believe can pass the Legislature.
Do you want a people's plan for the stadium? Consider the following:
1) More than 70 percent of Minnesotans support racinos to fund a new stadium.
2) Racinos will increase employment in the hospitality and construction industries, two sectors badly damaged in the recent recession.
3) Racino revenue will be used to increase horse racing purses and revitalize the horse industry. That's real economic development that will ripple through the rural economy and provide a shot in the arm for people employed in agricultural businesses in all corners of the state.
4) Racinos will generate at least $133 million in new state revenue every year without increasing taxes, more than double the amount needed to pay the public portion of new stadium costs.
5) With the remaining state revenue, we can repay our local school districts the money borrowed from them to balance the budget last July.
In 13 other states, racinos have proved to be a winner. They have created thousands of new jobs, raised funds for important state priorities and improved the agricultural economy. The evidence is clear they would do the same in Minnesota.
If you need more evidence, turn to Iowa, a state with 2.3 million fewer people than Minnesota. Three racinos generated $101 million in state revenue in 2009, employed more than 2,500 people at the racetracks and put thousands of others to work in the agricultural industries that support horse racing.
By contrast, electronic pulltabs, another worthy source of gaming revenues, raised only $8 million for the state of Iowa that year.
There will always be arguments about racinos. Existing casino owners will claim a loss of jobs and express concern about the social costs of gambling.
Neither of those were issues when these owners were opening and expanding their own casino operations, and they won't be when racinos add jobs and increase wages in the hospitality industry.
Adding new games at racetracks that already have other gambling hardly creates new threats of problem gambling for Minnesota.
Others will claim that racinos will be delayed by endless court challenges. Former Minnesota Chief Justice Eric Magnuson has extensively reviewed this issue and has provided his legal opinion: Racino video lottery games that are operated by the State Lottery are legal.
He also determined that any attempts at legal action will not stop racinos from operating quickly once legislation passes.
The people's stadium should be funded by the people's funding plan. It is time to authorize racinos in Minnesota.
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Claire Rolbing, R-Jordan, is a member of the Minnesota Senate. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, is a member of the Minnesota House. The commentary was cosigned by Sen. Jim Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul; Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, and Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan.