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The Department of Revenue, which worked with the Gambling Control Board to create the stadium funding projections, believed the estimates “seemed reasonable at the time,” Assistant Revenue Commissioner Matt Massman said.
Massman reiterated that estimates were hampered by the lack of comparable games, but he believed his department’s researchers “used the best available estimates at the time.”
The sales estimates were also used by House and Senate researchers in their fiscal reports.
‘Nobody paid attention’
Nearly a year after those projections were made, about 200 Minnesota bars and restaurants offer electronic pulltabs, not the 2,500 that had been predicted. Electronic bingo games have just been introduced.
Average daily gross sales for electronic pulltabs have increased to about $69,000, but sales per gambling device have declined.
Such numbers, in the past, would have had limited public interest. But now they hold a key to the Vikings stadium.
“Charitable gambling has been around since 1985,” Barrett said. “Charities have been paying taxes to the state since then. Nobody paid attention. They are now.”
Schultz believes the sales estimates went unchallenged because of their high stakes.
“This was a deal that was going to happen no matter what,” Schultz said. “The governor wanted a stadium. The money couldn’t come from the general fund. The charities had been asking for electronic games.”
With funding projections for the Vikings stadium now slashed by $33 million for this year alone, future estimates will be more accurate, Barrett and Massman said.
“Now they’re starting to be based on actual activity,” said Massman.
Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511