Hoping to head off the use of gambling money to build a Minnesota Vikings stadium, a politically diverse group of legislators Thursday said they would oppose “the marriage of two bad ideas” – a publicly-subsidized stadium and an expansion of gambling of Minnesota.
The state Capitol press conference kicked off another day of stadium-related talk regarding the Vikings, who want $650 million in public subsidies to build a $1.1 billion stadium in Ramsey County’s Arden Hills.
“In recent years, almost every budget challenge we’ve faced has been met with a call for more casinos,” said Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie. “The proponents of gambling describe this as harmless fun, entertainment and, in effect, free money.
“None of that is true. In fact, casino gambling is highly destructive to individuals, [and] to families,” he said.
Hann was joined by other conservative Republicans, such as Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, but also DFLers such as Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington. Several DFL legislators from Minneapolis, meanwhile, also said they were opposed to a plan to have a Block E casino in downtown Minneapolis.
While the legislators insisted they had gathered to oppose gambling, most acknowledged they were also opposed to using public money to pay for a new Vikings stadium. Gov. Mark Dayton said he wants a special legislative session by Thanksgiving to resolve the stadium issue.
“A lot of us are frustrated with the approach that the professional teams have taken,” said Hann. “They’re [playing] one state against the other to try to blackmail the public into funding a venue for them to play in.”
Sen. David Thompson, R-Lakeville, disputed the notion that legislators had to act quickly to keep the Vikings from possibly leaving Minnesota. “I wouldn’t be making the Vikings leave. It would be the ownership of the Vikings making the decision to leave [and] the NFL allowing them because they didn’t get from us what they want.
“If they make that decision, I personally am going to live with that,” said Thompson.
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