Reporting John Lauritsen
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Funding for the Viking stadium has come up short at the Capitol in the past, but racino advocates say lawmakers can’t ignore it any longer.
Supporters say passing a racino bill would instantly solve the funding problem, especially with electronic pull tab games falling short of estimated revenues.
John Derus is on the board of directors for Running Aces Harness Park in Columbus. He says that by passing racino and adding slot machines, the park would double its number of full-time employees.
And the money will not only help fund the Vikings stadium, but would also benefit schools and the Mayo Clinic.
“There’s $50 million on the table…All you have to do is pass one law and the next day the revenue stream almost comes,” Derus said. “And the state wouldn’t have to worry about paying off the Vikes stadium, ever. It would all be done. And there would be money left over, by the way.”
Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R-Cedar) also has a horse in the racino race. He’s chief author of the racino bill and believes the public is also on board.
“It was a good idea back then. We didn’t get it done last legislative session. We should have. I think it had more support then than it ever had before,” Hackbarth said.
But don’t count Canterbury Park as a supporter. A marketing agreement with Mystic Lake Casino prevents Canterbury from backing racino. And so far the agreement has worked, as Canterbury will be at capacity for horses for the first time since 1991.
Governor Mark Dayton also wants the racino bill to stay sidetracked, but he says lawmakers need a back-up plan for the stadium.
“It’s too important of a project. Seven thousand people working on that project. And if that project were to be delayed for any period of time, they’d be collecting unemployment checks rather than going to work,” Dayton said.
Monday afternoon, Rep. Ann Lenczewski (DFL-Bloomington) introduced a bill to add sales tax to team jerseys and other sports memorabilia. The bill could get a hearing at the Capitol later this week.