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Trying to revive interest in a racino -- and capitalize on momentum to build a Minnesota Vikings stadium -- supporters of expanded horse track gambling say they are willing to pony up more for a new football home.
Former Sen. Dick Day, a lobbyist for Racino Now, said Thursday that his group is willing to commit $40 million a year to a stadium if the state will agree to slot machines at Canterbury Park in Shakopee.
The Vikings have said they need as much as $42 million a year to pay the costs of the $870 million project, which has yet to gain legislative approval.
Day estimated that 2,500 slots could generate $100 million a year in profits.
"We think we have the answer to the Vikings," he said. "There's no cost to anybody." Day said that four other broad categories each would receive $15 million a year -- agricultural and rural development, biosciences, early childhood education and the state's general fund.
But earlier racino proposals have generated little interest among lawmakers, some of whom are opposed to increased gambling, while others are unwilling to encroach on what has been exclusively Indian gambling.
On Thursday, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, a DFL gubernatorial candidate, said, "I don't see that anything's changed. I think this is a desperate attempt ... to throw another idea out there."
Kelliher said legislators were likely to take a dim view of expanding gambling while health care, education and other government services faced possible budget cuts.
Resistance to racino money
The Vikings and Gov. Tim Pawlenty, both key players in any attempt to build a new stadium, have been cool in the past to using racino funds for a stadium.
On Thursday, Vikings stadium spokesman Lester Bagley said that he was not aware of Day's latest proposal and that the team remained "generally neutral" on racino funds.
He declined to comment on whether linking racino more directly to a Vikings stadium was designed to improve racino's chances at the Legislature. "I'll stay out of that," he said.
Day acknowledged that racino has met with stiff resistance from the Legislature and tribes, and he said that a hasty attempt on Thursday to move the legislation through another House panel failed.
No slots for Running Aces
To make the proposal more palatable, Day said his group has dropped the idea of putting slots at Running Aces, the state's other horse track, located in Anoka County.
Day, who left his Senate seat to lobby for racino, said that opposition from northern Minnesota Indian tribes to slots at Running Aces led to the change.
The new proposal would also increase the number of slots at Canterbury from 1,500 to 2,500.
But the new proposal brought out new critics.
Robert Farinella, general manager of Running Aces, said he was disappointed that his facility had been excluded from the proposal.
"If there's going to be racino legislation in Minnesota, then Running Aces very much wants to be part of that because it will create jobs," he said.
John McCarthy, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, said the changes would not lessen the resolve of northern tribes to oppose a single racino at Canterbury Park.
"It doesn't change anything from our position," he said.
He also said allowing one racino operation could lead to others.
McCarthy said that lawmakers who favored slots at Canterbury Park to compete with the Shakopee tribe's Mystic Lake Casino would be offset by northern Twin Cities legislators upset that the Anoka racetrack was excluded.
Similarly, he said, legislators looking for money to finance a Vikings stadium would be offset by those who would rather see gambling proceeds go to health, education or other state government needs.
"You start to put the Vikings in the middle of it, and it could turn them off," McCarthy said.