When legislators announced that the Vikings stadium bill would have back-up funding mechanisms, people suspected that trouble lied ahead for taxpayers. Little did anyone know that they'd be facing this disaster:
Six months after the state approved a plan to fund a new Vikings stadium with charitable gambling, sales of electronic pulltabs and bingo are running nowhere near initial projections.
Gross revenues for the games are $7.5 million, just over one-fifth the $35 million projected last May. Projections for tax revenue from all charitable gambling, forecast at $17 million this fiscal year, are expected to be scaled back with Thursday’s state budget forecast.
That's the awful news. The story inside the story doesn't paint a pretty picture, either:
“I think the projections were just too high, which is unfortunate because we are judging success or failure on them,” said Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, chair of the House Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, which oversees gambling.
“The number of sites projected to be up and running was 2,500 by October,” he said. “Last week, we were at 170 [sites]. … The projection was $209 per day per device. We’re at less than half of that.”
Falling 50% short of the per device funding level is a disaster waiting to happen. Based on those revenue realities, that disaster isn't far from manifesting itself soon.
If that isn't enough bad news from the e-tabs/charity-funding front, it gets worse:
Atkins said he will introduce legislation next week to approve a new electronic game run by the Minnesota Lottery, to be placed in bars and not requiring charities’ oversight. Proceeds would be put toward the stadium.
In other words, Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Twin Cities, just announced that he's introducing legislation for a new gambling game to compete with charitable gambling.
That's a disaster waiting to happen to charities. The last thing they need is to compete for gambling dollars. The original paper pulltabs funded everything from battered women's shelters to youth hockey programs.
Rep. Atkins' bill, if passed and signed into law, would pit funding for the Vikings stadium against these charities. That dispels the oft-repeated myth that the DFL fights for the little guy.