The Monday Morning Quaterbacking over electronic gambling heats up.
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.”