Tribe: New Casino Could Bring MN $1B in 5 Years

White Earth Nation said that a Twin Cities casino could bring the State of Minnesota between $726 million and nearly $1 billion in revenue by the end of its first five years of operation; the tribe said the money could be used to fund the state's share of a new Vikings stadium, among other things.

While a bill to build a $975 million Vikings stadium at the Metrodome site seems to have stalled in the Minnesota Legislature, the White Earth Nation tribe continues to push for a Twin Cities casino that it says would help fund the new stadium.

The northwest Minnesota tribe last month proposed developing a Twin Cities-area casino that it would run in partnership with the State of Minnesota. Net revenues from the casino would be split 50-50 between the tribe and the state and would be enough to pay the public's share of a new stadium without imposing new taxes, White Earth said at the time.

The tribe announced Tuesday that it completed “comprehensive economic and market analyses” of the proposal, which projects that the state would receive between $726 million and nearly $1 billion in revenue from the casino by the end of the first five years of its operation.

The projections are based on data compiled by investment banks and were evaluated by California-based Red-Horse Financial Group, Inc., White Earth said.

“All the money from a White Earth-state casino would stay in Minnesota,” Erma J. Vizenor, chair of the White Earth tribe, said in a statement. “The tribe's share would be invested in housing, education, health care, and economic opportunities, benefiting not just the tribe but all of northwestern Minnesota. The state could use its share for a Vikings stadium, to pay back schools, for economic development, or for any purpose-and all of it with no new taxes.”

White Earth's study projected that the cost of developing the casino would total $700 million; the figure includes construction costs of about $585 million, plus funds required for land acquisition and road and highway improvements. White Earth said it would issue bonds to cover the development costs.

While White Earth's projections are based on developing a casino at the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Arden Hills, the tribe said that the casino proposal could be adapted for other sites, including Block E in downtown Minneapolis; it added that the casino doesn't need to be located near a new Vikings stadium.

Meanwhile, a proposal to build the $975 million stadium at the Metrodome site received its first hearing in front of a Senate committee on Wednesday. The committee decided not to hold a vote that day and opted to resume the hearing at a later, unspecified date; several lawmakers expressed concerns related to the state's plan to fund its portion of the stadium through tax revenue from electronic pull-tab games, according to a Star Tribune report.

Governor Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, and Vikings representatives unveiled plans for the downtown Minneapolis stadium earlier this month. Under the plan, the stadium would open in 2016. The Vikings would pay $427 million, or close to half, of the building cost, while the state would contribute $398 million and the City of Minneapolis would pitch in $150 million.

White Earth's proposed casino, if developed, would be Minnesota's first on non-reservation land and the first to share revenue with the state. Last year, Minneapolis-based developer Alatus, LLC, unsuccessfully tried to change state law and build one in downtown Minneapolis' struggling Block E development. White Earth, which is Minnesota's largest and poorest tribe, currently operates one-Shooting Star Casino-on its reservation.