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April 03, 2012

Minnesota governor calls new Vikings gambling deal "illegal"

So apparently now that charitable gaming interests are satisified with the Minnesota Vikings stadium bill, everybody else has started hating it. Yesterday we learned that the Vikings owners are enraged that they'd have to make up part of the shortfall if gambling money isn't enough to pay the stadium bills; today, it's Gov. Mark Dayton's turn to assert that part of the revised bill is "illegal":

Gov. Mark Dayton said he believes sports-themed tipboards are not allowed under federal law.
The constitutionality of that law is being challenged, Dayton said, but in the meantime, "it clearly is something that would not be able to be used from the beginning as an assurance to bondholders that they were going to get repaid....I just don't think it's viable."
Federal law prohibits gambling on sports except in states that were grandfathered in.
But King Wilson, executive director of Allied Charities of Minnesota, which represents charitable gaming groups, said he thinks the form of tipboards envisioned under the new plan would be legal because it's strictly based on numbers.
A player would pay and receive randomly assigned numbers. The player would win if those numbers showed up anywhere in the final score; payout would not depend on the score of a specific team.
Committee staff said the bill was written to survive legal challenge, but there was no guarantee that it would.

The tipboards are projected to bring in $16 million a year toward the stadium deal, so if those are struck down, that's a huge chunk of money that would need to be replaced. And if the Vikings refuse to accept luxury suite and ticket taxes, then that blows an even bigger hole in the stadium budget, now that charities would need to be paid $36 million a year in tax relief in exchange for them signing off on the deal.

In any case, though, the cobbled-together plan did get passed by a state house committee, so the stadium bill lives to fight another day. At this rate, though, it looks like it's going to be fighting on multiple fronts, and we know how well that usually turns out.

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