New Amendments Complicate Vikings Stadium Plan

The Vikings stadium proposal continues to transform as it progresses at the state capitol, and the addition of "racinos" as a funding source has added a new layer of complexity.

The proposal to build a new Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis cleared yet another hurdle on Wednesday-although it came with a significant twist.

As the Senate Finance Committee approved the bill, it also added a plan to legalize slot machines at horse tracks as a funding source for the stadium, according to media reports. The addition of the so-called “racino” plan is yet another indicator that some state lawmakers are doubtful that electronic bingo and pulltabs alone can generate enough revenue to cover the state's $398 million portion of the $975 million stadium's cost, according to a report by the Star Tribune.

The Minneapolis newspaper reported that the addition of the racino plan left stadium backers concerned and could slow the momentum of the stadium plan. (Read the full Star Tribune report here.)

Early reports indicated that the amendment could be removed as early as Thursday, when the Senate Tax Committee planned to take up the bill. But a Thursday afternoon report by the Duluth News Tribune said that the Senate committee will not review the bill Thursday, and there was no immediate indication as to when the bill would come up.

The bill reportedly needs to go through the Senate Tax Committee before the full Senate can vote. Meanwhile, the proposal is awaiting a floor vote in the House, and Minority Leader Paul Thissen on Wednesday issued a statement urging that the bill be brought to a vote as soon as possible.

In another move that could slow the plan's recent momentum, a group of Republican legislators on Thursday reportedly spoke out in opposition to the expansion of gambling as a funding source for the stadium. Representative Mike Benson of Rochester said he intends to introduce an amendment that would pay the state's share through an income tax hike on players, along with other stadium-related tax increases, the Star Tribune reported.

The drama around the stadium plan has escalated during the past couple of weeks. Barely more than a week ago, the House Government Operations and Elections Committee rejected the stadium funding plan, prompting the House stadium bill's author to say “somebody will have to pull a rabbit out of a hat for this thing to stay alive.”

But it did regain life, as the House Ways and Means Committee advanced an altered plan on Monday, a couple of days after the plan also regained momentum in the Senate by passing the Local Government Committee. And on Tuesday, the Minneapolis City Council voted in favor of adding the stadium plan to the city's lobbying agenda.

But by Tuesday night, one key council member who supported the stadium plan said he would “potentially” change his vote if an independent panel disagrees with the city attorney's belief that the stadium plan doesn't require a citywide referendum, the Star Tribune reported. If the council member switches sides, it would eliminate the seven-member majority of the 13-member council in support of the stadium plan.