Odds may be high for pulltab funding of Vikings stadiumST. PAUL — Funding stadium construction with pulltab and bingo revenue may not be a safe bet.
By: Don Davis and Danielle Nordine, Worthington Daily Globe
ST. PAUL — Funding stadium construction with pulltab and bingo revenue may not be a safe bet.
A professor who has studied the issue said predicting the impact that changing state law would have on pulltab and bingo revenue is chancy.
And the organization representing charities that sponsor pulltab and bingo games in establishments across the state said the proposal to allow electronic devices does not go far enough to convince local charities to convert.
In an effort to convince charities to back a Vikings stadium financing proposal, Gov. Mark Dayton and Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans on Friday announced a new plan that would increase charities’ profits on the two games. Executive Director King Wilson of Allied Charities of Minnesota was not convinced that charities would go along with the idea.
Without the charities’ support, passing an already controversial stadium-funding plan becomes more difficult. The e-pulltab idea appears the most acceptable among legislators.
Dayton leans toward allowing electronic pulltabs because another leading gambling proposal, adding casinos at horse-racing tracks, likely would be tied up in court for years.
The stadium bill would fund the state’s $398 million portion of a $975 million Vikings stadium by selling bonds to be repaid with revenue from newly allowed electronic pulltab and bingo devices.
The theory for the plan is that allowing patrons to play on electronic devices would attract more business than the current paper games. Charities for years have said that authorizing electronic devices, a bit like playing on an iPad, would bring more money to them, the host bars and, via taxes, the state.
The state Gambling Control Board and Revenue Department estimate electronic pulltabs and bingo would bring $62.5 million in new money to each the state and charities, with $28 million more to host businesses, such as bars.
Estimates released Friday show large gains in profits from charities that host games. A typical example is the Sexual Assault Program of North St. Louis County that now receives $1,153 from the games would get $20,847 under the new proposal.
But an economist who watches gambling finances wonders about the estimates.
St. Thomas University professor John Spry said it is impossible to predict how much more, or less, could be spent if electronic pulltab and bingo games are allowed.
The estimates could be high or low, he said.
When the state estimates a new type of revenue, it usually is based on existing sales, income or whatever is being taxed. But the professor said there is no way to know how customers would react to a new form of gambling.
“I would suggest to lawmakers that they very, very carefully look at” the proposal, he said.
Nordine and Davis work for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Daily Globe.