Tribe Proposes Local Casino to Fund Vikes Stadium
The White Earth Tribe in northwestern Minnesota has unveiled a proposal-MinnesotaWins-that would help fund a Vikings stadium.
At a Thursday news conference at the state capitol, White Earth proposed to develop 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, the tribe said. White Earth-which claims it is the state's poorest tribe-would use its portion of the revenue for housing, economic development, health care, and education needs on its reservation.
Meanwhile, the Star Tribune reported that an announcement is anticipated this week about new plans to build a Vikings stadium on the east side of the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis. Details will reportedly include financing, operating costs, and proposed engineering work.
Under the anticipated proposal, a new stadium could reportedly be built while the Vikings continue to play in the Dome. At the end of the 2015 season, the Dome would be torn down and the new stadium would be completed in time for the Vikings to finish the 2016 season in their new home.
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, according to a Star Tribune report. White Earth said the exact location of the casino could be determined after a stadium site has been chosen.
At a Senate hearing in December, White Earth Tribal Chairwoman Erma Vizenor reportedly said that a tribal casino next to a Vikings stadium in Arden Hills would generate an estimated $300 million in revenue annually.
The tribe claims that a casino in the Twin Cities would create up to 2,500 construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs, and it would continue to generate revenue for the state after the stadium funds have been secured. In addition, the casino would pay millions of dollars in sales and property taxes every year.
“Minnesotans are growing frustrated with the many ill-conceived schemes to fund the stadium,” Vizenor said in a statement. “MinnesotaWins will provide much-needed jobs and economic development, not only in the metro area but also in Minnesota's poorest areas, and provide a continued revenue source for the state. All with no new taxes.”
A bill to approve White Earth's proposal was introduced in the Minnesota House of Representatives this week by Representative Kent Eken of Twin Valley and Representative Bob Gunther of Fairmont. The tribe claims that it has also received Governor Mark Dayton's support.
But the proposal will be a tough sell to lawmakers who are wary of gambling. Former Governor Tim Pawlenty proposed a White Earth-owned Twin Cities casino in 2005, but a state Senate committee killed the proposal. Then last year, Minneapolis-based developer Alatus, LLC, unsuccessfully tried to change state law and build a casino in downtown Minneapolis' struggling Block E development.
White Earth is Minnesota's largest tribe and accounts for almost 40 percent of the state's native population.