Metro casino getting little support

Vikings stadium rendering

One of the options offered to legislators is having a metro casino operated by the White Earth tribe, which would then cover the state's portion of stadium funding. There has been almost no political support for that funding option.

With the Vikings stadium bill remaining in a holding pattern as politicos continue to hem, haw and harrumph their way into inaction, a new player in the game has come up with a stadium funding proposal – but one that isn't being received in the spirit in which the offer was made.

For years, the State of Minnesota and resident Native American tribes have maintained a hard and bitter peace when it has come to gaming in the state. In terms of state-run casinos, the battle has been ongoing for years. The Native American tribes were granted casino rights as part of a reparation process that was a concession to the crimes committed against Minnesota Indians over time.

There are currently 20 casinos dotted throughout Minnesota, but none of them are located in Minneapolis – the largest city in the state and a natural tourist attraction for outstate Minnesotans heading to "The Cities." It is a prime piece of gambling real estate that has yet to be tapped. There are casinos in Prior Lake that draw millions of people every year, but, a downtown Minneapolis casino has been the prized property that remains untapped for a big-time casino that would be likely be the biggest thing casino gaming in Minnesota has ever seen.

The White Earth Indian Nation made an offer this week to pay the state's entire $400 million commitment to construct a new stadium on the current Metrodome site. One of the poorest tribes in the state, the White Earth proposal comes with a hitch. In exchange for the payment of the state's share of the stadium cost, the state would grant the White Earth Nation a metro casino.

There are 20,000 members of the White Earth Nation and, being located in far northern Minnesota, the gaming profits other tribes have enjoyed thanks to their proximity to the population centers of the state haven't been afforded them. However, the reception to the plan, unveiled by tribal chairwoman Erma Vizenor, isn't being well-received by the state.

As big a hot potato as the stadium issue has been for Minnesota lawmakers, putting a casino in Minneapolis has been molten political lava. House Speaker Kurt Zellers (IR-Maple Grove) quickly denounced the plan, as did Senate Majority Leader David Senjum (IR-Rochester).

At a time when Vikings fans are praying against hope that somehow the current stadium bill that appears to be life support will pass, it would seem that if someone wants to get the state off the hook (again) from paying for a stadium, perhaps the White Earth proposal shouldn't simply be dismissed as impractical.

The White Earth proposal is a long shot at best – even its staunchest supporters would admit that – but it's something. At a time when "nothing" appears to be more of a buzzword than "something" on the stadium issue, any proposal that offers something that meets the wish of the state to not using any state tax money on a stadium would seem like a positive for stadium supporters. Instead, it would appear the idea has been shot down before the ink on the paper being distributed to legislators has even dried.


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    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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