Metro casino plan a good bet
Minnesota politicians should get their heads out of the sand and take a closer look at a sweetened proposal by the White Earth Nation to build a metro-area casino.
White Earth now proposes giving the state $400 million for a Vikings stadium in exchange for permission to build a Twin Cities casino.
"Minnesota will have the money and the Vikings will be able to proceed in a timely manner," White Earth Chairwoman Erma Vizenor told reporters in St. Paul Thursday morning.
Fresh off her re-election victory Tuesday, Vizenor is pushing hard for the metro casino, which could bring in several hundred million dollars a year to White Earth for programs and services.
The state would likewise receive an estimated $200 million a year as its half of the 50-50 revenue-sharing partnership.
Vizenor received a cool reception from politicians on both sides of the aisle, but received support from Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley, who told the Star Tribune the team is open to the proposal. "Having alternatives is good,'" Bagley said. "We're impressed with what we heard from White Earth."
The $400 million would be built into the financing of the casino.
The tribe said it has reached an agreement with Credit Suisse as its lead investment bank and with Rock Gaming LLC as the developer.
No site has been selected, but Minneapolis, Arden Hills and Anoka are under consideration.
White Earth is offering to build a casino with 4,000 slot machines, 150 gaming tables and a 500-room hotel.
If approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature and signed into law by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, the project would bring an estimated $200 million a year to the people of White Earth.
It would provide as estimated 2,500 jobs in the casino-hotel-dining complex and another 2,000 construction jobs as the facility is built.
There are 10,000 to 13,000 White Earth members living in the Twin Cities area who would love to get jobs at a metro casino.
The plan would pay the entire local and state share of the estimated $1.1 billion stadium project, so no new tax dollars would be needed.
It would give White Earth access to the Twin Cities gaming market. White Earth is the most populous tribe in Minnesota, making up 40 percent of the native population, and deserves access to the state's biggest market.
Regular independent audits would be part of the casino deal.
The White Earth casino plan would keep the Vikings in Minnesota.
Don't underestimate the economic impact the professional football team has on the state, from payroll to tourism revenue -- the team draws thousands of fans each week from Iowa, the Dakotas and Wisconsin.
The deal would include a moratorium on any state gaming expansion after White Earth builds the casino.
Not only would the stadium issue be resolved, the new casino's profits would be used to alleviate White Earth's housing, education and poverty problems.
And the state would receive a $200 million a year revenue stream for its needs.
It's a plan that saves a lot of money for state taxpayers and helps White Earth. Political leaders should quit giving it the cold shoulder and start giving it a serious consideration.