The Senate bill has been mired and brought into a holding pattern without getting out of committee. The House Commerce Committee heard two stadium bills – one from Rep. Morrie Lanning (IR-Moorhead) and one from Rep. John Kriesel (IR-Cottage Grove) – to provide the funding source for the state's portion of the stadium project.
Kriesel's proposal included payment options that would include standard gaming from paper pull tab and Bingo games, as well as sports-themed tip boards, that allow people to buy tickets that have digits on them that relate to the score of a game. For example, if a buyer gets the digits 7-7 and the score at halftime is 17-17 and the final score is 27-17, he or she wins twice. As with other forms of gaming, the odds are pre-built in that the money taken in exceeds the payout to winners, thus creating a consistent profit with the more activity the games generate.
The practice of tip boards has been a popular, but not necessarily legal, form of gambling in Minnesota bars for years. While connected to sports gambling, it is deemed as legal by tip board supporters because it is not based on which team wins a game, it's based on the score. However, several states that allow tip boards have been facing legal challenges to the legitimacy of the practice as a state or local government fundraising mechanism. Kriesel claims that his bill would provide the state with $52 million a year in revenue to pay off the state's portion of the funding. In addition, the figures on Kriesel's proposal would increase the amount taken in by charitable gambling concerns by an estimated $36 million a year.
Lanning updated his proposal in light of concerns that the original bill might not meet the revenue projections set forth. As such, he included four backup funding sources in the event of a revenue shortfall – a 10 percent tax on stadium luxury boxes and suites, a sports-themed lottery game, redirecting existing Hennepin County taxes currently going to pay off Target Field and an admission charge on people attending games.
The Vikings have opposed the tax on luxury boxes because those revenues are the basis for much of the team's plan to help pay off its portion of the stadium funding package (which is the largest contribution of any of the three signatories).
Although the voice vote was split, both the stadium plan and the additional funding options were approved by the committee. What happens next is up to the Legislature, whether to allow the bill to move forward in this session or to shoot it down. However, Monday night's vote was the first positive sign the stadium bill has seen in weeks, even if it may be too little, too late to get through the 2012 legislative session.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.