Dayton: We’ll fix Vikings stadium financing

  • Article by: JIM RAGSDALE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 27, 2013 - 8:39 AM

Governor said it is too soon to panic about whether the electronic games will cover the state’s share of the Minnesota Vikings stadium.

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Gov. Mark Dayton

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Gov. Mark Dayton said all sides acted “in good faith” in depending on new e-pulltabs to fund a Vikings stadium and must accept responsibility for the games producing a fraction of the revenue that was predicted.

“We’re all in this together,” Dayton said 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.

“We’ll work this out,” Dayton said. “It’s not about pointing fingers about what happened last spring. … Unless somebody can prove conclusively otherwise, I would say everybody — the Gambling Control Board, the Department of Revenue, the Legislature, Republicans and Democrats, and my administration — everybody acted in good faith, and has applied their best judgment to a totally unprecedented situation.”

At issue is the state’s reliance on electronic pulltab games that Dayton and the Legislature approved last session to cover the state’s $348 million contribution to a new Vikings stadium. The Star Tribune reported Sunday that gambling businesses with an interest in promoting the games helped produce the rosy estimates.

Initial estimates of $34 million, used to gather support for the stadium bill that passed in May 2012, have since been cut to $1.7 million. The number of bars installing the games has been less than one-tenth of the number projected. Dayton’s revenue department, legislative researchers and legislative bill sponsors did not challenge the estimates.

“We all knew this was uncharted territory,” Dayton said Tuesday. Because the games had not been tried in the state, Dayton said, it was appropriate for state gambling officials to ask for advice from the companies.

“You have to turn to somebody who has some knowledge and expertise,” Dayton said.

“I don’t know what caused it to go awry,” he added. “I know we’re going to work to correct it.”

He said a reserve is “covered,” the stadium bonds won’t be issued for some time and the legislation has backup revenue sources that could be tapped, namely a sports-themed lottery and a stadium suite tax.

“The Legislature, if they misunderstood the situation, they have no one to blame but themselves,” he said. “And I have no one to blame but myself.”

If there is blame to go around, it can be widely shared. Dayton is a DFLer, but the bill was passed by a Republican-controlled Legislature with bipartisan support.

During a Senate legislative hearing on the issue in 2012, state officials said they had consulted with vendors and the charitable gaming industry, among others, in trying to estimate the amount of revenue the new games would produce.

Dayton said the state will “push hard to get these games throughout the state ... people who play them say they’re really a lot of fun, and more fun than paper pulltabs. And once we get the charities going, I think this will get up to speed, and we’ll see where we stand.”

Jim Ragsdale • 651-925-5042

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