The Monday Morning Quaterbacking over electronic gambling heats up.

Two gambles that haven’t paid off

When breaking down the various back-up funding plans for the Vaseline Dome, one step was neglected – the finger pointing.

For a funding mechanism that was originally billed to deliver $35 million in revenue per year, and continuously revised down to $17 million and then $1.7, the process of assigning blame should have been viewed as inevitable.  But like a legislative Atlas, who would shoulder the majority of the ownership of such a flawed model?  Gov. Mark Dayton, who was so publicly aggressive in his defense of a new stadium?  The hapless former Republican legislative majorities who acquiesced to the bill?  The Star Tribune, whose rampant conflict of interest with any Metrodome-site construction should have called into question their vocal support?

No, the Star Tribune has decided the real culprit are the gambling firms that provided the electronic pull-tab games:

While flawed, the gambling board’s sales estimates were extremely detailed, including the number of bars and restaurants that would adopt e-gambling, the number of devices in play, what hours they would be played and how much money would be wagered.

It projected 2,500 sites would be selling electronic pulltab within six months, or nearly 14 bars and restaurants joining in per day….

Nearly a year after those projections were made, about 200 Minnesota bars and restaurants offer electronic pulltabs, not the 2,500 that had been predicted. Electronic bingo games have just been introduced.

Average daily gross sales for electronic pulltabs have increased to about $69,000, but sales per gambling device have declined.

The firms may have been making bad assumptions about the capacity for Minnesota to support increased charitable gambling, but at least the firms’ figures came out of experiences in states like Montana, South Dakota and Oregon.  Still, the basic math of the gambling mechanism was public knowledge long before it was formally added to the final bill.

Minnesotans spend about $1 billion in charitable gambling, which equals the comparatively paltry sum of $36 million in revenue.  The Vikings stadium, requiring $35 million a year to cover the State’s $348 million share, would necessitate charitable gambling to either double to $2 billion or entirely overrun the current charitable competition.  In that light, it’s little wonder that other charitable organizations were not asked for their opinion.  A decision that now is being heavily criticized as charities across the State say some version of “I told you so.”

All the finger-pointing in the world doesn’t help hide the reality that the responsibility for flawed legislation needs to rest with the political leadership that authored it – a fact even the Star Tribune acknowledges:

“There was a willful blindness … driven by pressure politics,” charged David Schultz, a Hamline University political analyst and a professor of nonprofit law…

“This was a deal that was going to happen no matter what,” Schultz said. “The governor wanted a stadium. The money couldn’t come from the general fund. The charities had been asking for electronic games.”

11 thoughts on “Fumble

  1. If gambling has been deemed an honorable and ethical was to raise funds for such a necessary project, why don’t they put these machines in high schools, in place of the evil, hazardous soda pop and snack machines?

  2. Ironically Mitch, it isn’t the introduction of electronic gambling that could have had a legitimate chance of increasing charitable gambling to the numbers bandied about. Pull tabs declined about 50% after another legislative action-the smoking ban.

    People who want to smoke and play pull tabs now go across the border to Iowa or Wisconsin, or they head over to an Indian Casino, where the smoking ban doesn’t apply.

  3. Absolutely incredible. The governor, the mayor, and many legislators (both R&D) allowed this monstrosity to pass. Now they blame the evil gambling companies? Didn’t they do their research? Where was their unbiased data leading them. No this falls squarely those politicians. Actually it falls squarely on the voters who put them in.

    By the way, vote Cam Winton for Minneapolis Mayor. This is one fine man who would have listened to reason and voters.

  4. Dayton is an embarrassment to the state. He got interviewed by the media after the Gopher women’s hockey team victory and he looked and sounded like he was drunk! He does represent the people that voted him in; drunk and/or stupid!

  5. Two “Republicans” were crucial to the passage of this turd. Kreisel is gone, but Julie Rosen is still around, and if I’m not mistaken, has expressed interest in a Gov. run.

    No, Julie. No.

  6. And for the estimates, Montana did not have established pull tabs in operation to be replaced by the electronic version. So it was “virgin” territory.

  7. With all due respect to Kreisel’s sacrifice while serving our country, he sure did bail from office quickly. He leaves as his legacy his support for the stadium and his support of gay marriage, citing as his reason a fellow soldier who was KIA that was gay.

  8. A friend and I caught Tom Emmer’s ear at his State Fair booth the summer before the election. We asked him specifically how he felt about public funding for the Vikings’ stadium and what his stand was on the issue.

    From his demeanor, you’d have thought we’d asked accusatory questions about his previous DWIs. In a quite displeased voice he huffed that the issue was up to the legislature, not the governor. Next question, please …

    We were shocked. If we expected a perturbed answer, it would have been about the absurdity of public funding. Instead, we left with the opinion that Mr. Emmer was a Vikings fan. In fairness, this was our interpretation. Maybe he meant something else. But I doubt it. I voted for him with considerably less gusto than I would have prior to his response.

    Same friend and I were at the fair again this year. While speaking with an “operative” at the Republican booth about the upcoming election, etc., my friend brought up the stadium again. The “operative” supported the state’s funding of it “because it was fiscally responsible; we’d just have to pay more to get them back at a later time.” Granted he was only a volunteer, but he was representing the party to some extent.

    I guess I was once again wrong in my interpretation of a black and white issue. When it comes time to assign blame, a good share of it is deserved on the right side of the aisle …

  9. Joe, quite a few Republicans voted for funding the several stadiums that have been built lately. Some on the hard left voted against them.

    Personally I am in favor of user fees. The management holds an event, charges admission and pays their expenses with the revenue they generate from that event. If that fee is too high, they won’t sell out. I think even with the subsidies their prices are exorbitant and coupled with the trip downtown, and the parking shakedown, I would much rather listen to the game while doing something else.

  10. Joe, I don’t disagree, and I said so at the time. Plenty of Republicans who should have known better crossed over on this issue.

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