Return to Index Mission Statement Stadium Situation Articles about the Twins' quest for a new park Why the Twins need a new park Concerns about a new Twins park Thoughts about the Twins and the stadium issue Save the Twins poll Twins links Contact Webmaster Save the Minnesota Twins is dedicated to keeping baseball 
in Minnesota by helping the Twins build a new stadium.
home > articles > article

New casinos proposed to solve stadium, budget woes
by Conrad deFiebre

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 receipts thereafter.

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 said.

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.