Governor Dayton says he’s open to asking the state’s tribal leaders for a contribution to pay for a new Vikings stadium.
Dayton’s spokeswoman told MPR News that Dayton’s deputy chief of staff met with lobbyists representing the Mille Lacs Band of the Ojibwe and Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Those tribes run two of the largest tribal casinos in the state. Dayton told MPR News that he hasn’t spoken directly with tribal leaders but he endorsed the idea of asking them to make a contribution to help pay for a stadium.
“That’s a possibility,” Dayton told MPR News. “And in fact, it was evidently discussed last night at the working group of a number of legislators and they may initiate that. I think it’s a good idea but I have not done it myself.”
Dayton said lawmakers were also going to approach lobbyists for the tribes to “get an idea of what they would support and what they would oppose and what they would most oppose.”
The state’s tribes are lobbying against efforts to build a casino in downtown Minneapolis or allowing slot machines at the state’s two horse tracks. Those are two of the options being considered as ways to pay for a new Vikings stadium.
John McCarthy with the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association says he doesn’t think tribal leaders are open to helping pay for the Vikings. He said many of the state’s tribes can’t fund all of their needs.
“I don’t think they have really seriously thought about it because it’s not something that they can do,” McCarthy said. “The wherewithal is simply not there. They don’t have that kind of revenue to be spending on a Vikings stadium when they don’t have enough revenue to provide enough housing, and health care and education and public safety to their own folks on the reservation.”
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community gave $10 million to the University of Minnesota a few years ago to help build the U of M’s stadium. McCarthy, however, said there is a difference between that donation and any suggestion to help pay for a new Vikings stadium.
“It’s a totally different issue,” McCarthy said. “A state university versus independent, very wealthy people in the Vikings. It’s like apples and oranges there.”
Several Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature are opposed to allowing for slot machines at the state’s horse tracks or building a casino in downtown Minneapolis. The state’s tribes have given heavily to Democrats in recent years.
Dayton, however, hasn’t shied away from suggesting that an expansion of gambling is needed. He said during the 2010 campaign for governor that a state owned and operated casino could help balance the state’s budget.
“I think for there to be a government-protected monopoly on that in the metro area is not in the best interest of the people in Minnesota,” Dayton said during the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce debate in August of 2010.
“We need the revenues. Competition is good for retailers as my family has learned. They’re good for politicians and I think it’s good for casino operators as well.”
One option that the state’s tribes won’t lobby against is to allow the state’s charities to move from traditional paper pull-tabs to electronic pull-tabs. McCarthy said they don’t like the idea but don’t consider it “an expansion of gambling.”
MPR News took a look at the revenue projections that say electronic pull-tabs could generate as much as $42 million a year and said the estimates are on shaky ground.