When last we checked in on the Minnesota Vikings stadium, the electronic pulltabs gambling scheme that was supposed to pay for it was falling woefully short of revenues, though there were hopes things would pick up soon. And now?
About 120 restaurants and bars now offer the video pulltab devices, a far cry from the 2,500 projected to be up and running by July. And gross sales through December were $4.2 million, far behind the $17.2 million projected to be raised by the end of July.
“I am more concerned than when I walked in,” said Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, chair of the House Committee on Commerce and Regulatory Reform, which was briefed on the pulltab progress.
“The revised revenue forecast, which already is lower [than the original forecast], is based on projections from 2,500 sites,” he said. “We’ve got 120 now. That would be a twentyfold increase by July.”
So that’s not good. On the bright side, as I mentioned last month, there are “blink-on” taxes on
Vikings tickets, parking, and memorabilia club seats and a sports-themed lottery [UPDATE: see comments below] that go into effect if the gambling proceeds aren’t enough to pay stadium costs. On the significantly less bright side, if the pulltabs are really going to generate less than a quarter of the $62.5 million a year that they were supposed to provide for the Vikings stadium, that’s a huge hole to fill, probably too huge for any amount of admission fees and souvenir taxes these revenue streams to make up for — earlier estimates had those bringing in at best $3 million a year.
So while it’s too soon for Minnesota legislators to panic … actually, it’s probably not too soon to panic, given that Hamilton County, Ohio has had to resort to selling off public hospitals to meet its Cincinnati Bengals stadium fund shortfall. Anyway, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, new revenue sources being considered are allowing e-pulltabs to be sold at grocery stores, easing regulations around approval of e-pulltab manufacturers — neither likely to do much if the problem is really that nobody wants to pay the $800 fee to install the games — and “creating additional funding sources if needed.” Keep one hand on your hospitals, Minnesotans.