Stadium bill doesn't carry much risk

Vikings stadium rendering

Opponents will line up against the stadium bill set to be introduced later this week, but the funding mechanism doesn't conflict with current gambling and the money invested would come back to the state.

The Vikings stadium bill that was released Thursday had a state funding component that included electronic pull tabs as one of the primary funding sources meant to pay off – don't underestimate the phrase "pay off" because it means that any short-term investment would be repaid and then some – the state's share of a stadium project.

To put the state's investment in perspective, consider the state to be a bank. A bank provides money to a private investor to a project that, in this case, will not only create jobs for construction, but ongoing employment for those residual positions that are created by that construction – whether it be hotel, restaurant and bar employees to those who are hired for "game day" employment. The only risk the bank takes is that the business it borrows money to may go belly up. The NFL isn't going away any time soon. In 2016, someone is going to win Super Bowl L. In 2066, someone is going to win Super Bowl C. The only question is whether the Minnesota Vikings will be in competition to win either?

What makes the electronic pull tab option viable is that it isn't in direct competition with the casino industry. The Racino idea was doomed from the start because of infringement on the casino industry – and the strong Native American casino lobby that can greatly influence small-town politicians in a casino zone. Pull tabs aren't competition. It isn't blackjack, it's bingo. Gambling? Yes. Competition? No.

A year ago, a Vikings stadium bill appeared to be remote possibility. A proposal is in front of the State Legislature that, like a bank, will pay back the initial investment many times over in previously unattainable revenue. This isn't a bridge, which, like Vikings stadiums, tend to fail in Minnesota more than the rest of the country.

Those who represent Minnesotans aren't exactly representative. Casinos in Minnesota have been around long enough that those with an unscratchable itch for gambling can already expose themselves. Local hockey associations are the ones that should be enraged, not those same people that sanctimoniously attempt to speak for "the masses." If a legislator is a gambler, he or she is likely to get run out of office. His or her constituency isn't held to the same standard. They gamble. The state's "investment" will be paid back.

Pull tabs and scratchers are exempt from casino conflicts. It's going to create a new tier of gambler that didn't previously exist. Pull tabs will get yanked regardless. If it can pay off the state's share of a financial commitment, why not? Twice as much money is being spent to connect Minnesota to Wisconsin on an alternate route than I-94 via a massive bridge. Are the Vikings worth the state commitment for half the cost of a single bridge project? Bridges don't pay taxes. "Rich" NFL players do. Just something for stadium opponents to ponder.


  • Today is the deadline for teams to place the franchise-tag restriction on players. To date, 11 teams have thrown out the tag. The all-time record for teams exercising their franchise designations is 14 – set in 2009 and 2011. Expect that record to get broken today.

  • One player who was expected to be franchised was Marshawn Lynch of the Seahawks. But Seattle reached a four-year, $31 million deal – keeping the ‘Hawks in Beast Mode for at least the next couple of years.

  • A rally attended by as many as 30,000 unemployed union construction workers is scheduled for Tuesday to raise legislative awareness of the potential for local employment on the stadium question. Gov. Mark Dayton is expected to be in attendance. At first glance, it wasn't written into the bill that all contractors for the stadium come from Minnesota, but there is enough expertise in-state to warrant that in the language of the state's approval of a stadium bill. Minnesota Nice!

    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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