An Edina gambling promoter told legislators Wednesday that two private
casinos in the Twin Cities could solve Minnesota's professional baseball and
football stadium situation, as well as adding up to $70 million a year to the
state's strained budget.
Under the plan advanced by James Belisle, president of Multi Gaming
Management Inc., and sponsored by Rep. Tony Kielkucki, R-Lester Prairie,
investors would pay $450 million up front for the right to establish Minnesota's
first gambling casinos off Indian reservations, plus 10 percent of their gross
Voters would have to approve a constitutional amendment for the plan to
proceed, but Kielkucki said it could satisfy the public's desire to keep the
Twins and Vikings in Minnesota without spending tax money on new stadiums.
The proposal is by far the most ambitious of numerous gambling plans being
offered lately to pump up the public purse. And, like the others, it immediately
ran into criticism in a hearing Wednesday before the House Governmental
Operations and Veterans Affairs Policy Committee.
Tribal representatives said it would rob Indian reservations and rural
communities of the economic benefits of their casinos by luring away their
customers. And, although no votes were taken, several legislators complained
that it would open the door to unbridled expansion of gambling.
"If $450 million for stadiums is good," said Rep. Mike Osskopp,
R-Lake City, "do I hear $600 million for the children?"
He also suggested that the state would be selling itself short with the
proposed payment for a 30-year exclusive right to run casinos in the
seven-county metro area.
"I'm telling you, $450 million is a drop in the bucket for that,"
he said. "Everybody and their dog's going to be lined up. The driving force
behind these proposals is greed."
Berman on board
Belisle said the most paid so far was $100 million by Harrah's to set up a
casino in New Orleans. Nonetheless, he added, he has assembled an investment
group including Minnesota casino entrepreneur Lyle Berman that is willing to
pony up $450 million.
The money, combined with $150 million each from the Twins and Vikings, could
build two state-of-the-art stadiums without a dime kicked in by taxpayers,
Belisle said. With casino buildings included, the plan could spur up to
$1billion in new construction and 8,000 new jobs, he said.
The stadiums would be privately owned and fully taxpaying, leaving the public
off the financial hook, he added.
Belisle said he has discussed the plan with the Twins and Vikings. Twins
executives rejected it in favor of other options some time ago, but the Vikings
have expressed interest.
Kielkucki said the plan will be presented in greater detail to the state
stadium task force Jan. 3. "Sometimes you think outside the box," he
The House committee, which heard two casino plans last week, listened to
testimony Wednesday on two other gambling proposals:
- A state-run casino at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that
would be accessible only to ticketed passengers on the days of their flights.
Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said she got the idea from a casino in the
airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She said it would draw mostly
upper-income air travelers, many from out of the state, and would raise far less
revenue than other casino plans. She didn't offer an estimate.
- A state-run casino at the Canterbury Park horse track in Shakopee, a plan
that has been shot down twice before. But Rep. Mark Holsten, R-Stillwater, and
Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, said states such as Iowa, Delaware and West Virginia
are reaping hundreds of millions of dollars from slot machines at their tracks,
and New York recently approved them as well. Minnesota could take in $30 million
to $80 million a year by adding slots to the parimutuel and card club gambling
already at Canterbury, they said.