Minnesota's decision to legalize electronic pulltabs was based on revenue numbers provided by the gambling industry, and one state lawmakers wants to know why.
The gaming devices were supposed to cover the state's $343 million share of the cost for a new Vikings stadium. But e-pulltabs have pulled in only a fraction of the millions promised since the Republican-controlled Minnesota Legislature and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton agreed to legalize them last year.
The Star Tribune reported Sunday that gambling businesses with an interest in promoting the games helped produce the rosy revenue estimates. But the $35 million a year the industry promised would pour into the stadium fund turned out to be closer to $1.7 million this year, as bars and restaurants were slow to adopt the devices.
State Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, is calling for Senate hearings into the Minnesota Gambling Control Board's decision to base its revenue estimates on numbers provided by the gambling industry. The board recently the state's first electronic bingo games in an effort to bring more revenue in for the stadium fund.
"The Dayton administration provided these estimates and testified before your committee last year that the were solid estimates which could be trusted," Nienow wrote in a letter to the Senate Finance Committee, requesting an oversight hearing into the issue. "I never believed that and clearly I was wise to be so skeptical! At the time, I referred to the estimates as based on 'Fairies an FuFu Dust.' Sadly, it seems I was proven correct."
Dayton noted that e-pulltabs were a bipartisan experiment, with both sides acting "in good faith," and said it is too soon to declare the funding experiment a failure.
“We’re all in this together,” Dayton told reporters Tuesday. “We’re all responsible for its creation.” He said it is far too soon to panic about whether the electronic games will eventually cover the state’s share of the new stadium.
The Senate Finance Committee, now under Democratic control, has not yet responded to Nienow's request.