Stadium bill architect: Don’t hit the panic button on pull-tabs yet

Morrie Lanning (MPR Photo)

Former state Rep. Morrie Lanning was in the audience for today’s Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority meeting in Minneapolis. The Moorhead Republican was the architect of the stadium plan in the House last year — including the financing plan that’s worrying some of his former colleagues at the State Capitol.

Here’s what he had to say, in an interview about the plan this morning.

Q: The revenues are coming in at about a third of projections. Were the estimates wrong? Why isn’t there more money?

We certainly would like the revenue to be coming in in better than it has been. But we’re still not panicking at all. We knew it was going to take time. It’s unfortunately going to take more time probably than we would have envisioned. But when you’re dealing with charitable organizations around the state, something new comes along, it doesn’t happen overnight. People need to get accustomed to it. People need to gear up for it. You know, I have heard good reports from those who have gotten into it so far. They’ve had a great response. So we’re hopeful and optimistic. I think the bingo thing is probably going to take off faster than the pull-tab dimension of this, but you know, we hoped that it would come in better than it has. But we’re not going to panic. I am still reasonably confident that we’re going to be able to generate the revenues that we need. And remember we’ve got back-up revenue sources, too. If we have to, those will have to kick into effect.

Q: That’s the suite tax and the scratch off game. The state debt service was initially projected to be more than $30 million a year. We know the back-ups would raise a couple million dollars each per year. Should there have been something else?

It’s not as much as I had hoped for. I had wanted additional back-up. In fact, if you go back and look at some of the earlier versions [of the bill] we had other back-up revenues that we thought would have been good to keep in there. Unfortunately, with all of the trade-offs you had to go through along the way, with getting the bill passed, we lost some of those, and it’s unfortunate. But I think we need to give this time and not panic at this point, and give the charitable organizations more of an opportunity to get geared up, get more vendors out there that can be marketing the electronic pull-tab option. And look, we’re not under construction yet, either. We don’t need the money today. And hopefully it’s going to get a lot better as time goes on here.

Q: Was there a realistic alternative to electronic pull-tabs?

Well, obviously, we felt this was about the only way we could get this done, given the political climate we were working in at that point in time. You know, I am not ready to start saying we ought to look and be prepared to do other revenue-raising activities. It’s too early for that. Let’s give this a fair chance to get this up and operating, generating the revenue that I think is potentially still there. Let’s give that more of a chance before we start saying well, maybe we need to look at alternatives. If a year from now if things haven’t improved, then maybe we need to be looking at other options. But not now.