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Will gambling be the savior for Vikings?

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Minnesotans might begin to wonder if a new Vikings stadium is really feasible if lawmakers intend to rely on gambling revenues to fund the state's portion of the multimillion-dollar project.

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Stadium talks this week in St. Paul focused on ways to generate stadium funds via various gambling-expansion schemes, most involving the state's American Indian tribes.

It all looks a little tentative because tribes have their own priorities that often have little to do with Vikings football, and a proliferation of competing gambling proposals has the potential to scuttle all of them.

Consider the wish list that emerged during Tuesday's meeting of the Senate Taxes and State Government Committees:

• White Earth Tribal Nation, which operates a casino on the rural reservation at Mahnomen, wants a Twin Cities casino.

• Iron Range developers sought the OK to add gambling to a race track.

• An Alexandria lawmaker said the state should approve a money-making video lottery.

• Another lawmaker said a downtown Minneapolis casino is the way to go.

• And the old idea of adding casinos to the state's two horse-racing tracks, so-called racino, was discussed again.

While there was no shortage of ideas to expand gambling, those interests already big into gambling, particularly American Indian tribes, were against adding casinos that would compete with existing venues. For example, the White Earth idea of a new casino/motel complex at Arden Hills (one of the sites under consideration for a stadium) was vigorously opposed by the Mille Lacs band, which operates two casinos north of the Twin Cities. And a representative of the Prairie Island Indian Community Council, another tribal casino operator, said gamblers should not fund a Vikings stadium.

If expanded gambling is the apparent fallback option for generating the public share of funding for a Vikings stadium, the entire stadium enterprise is on squishy ground. Even if a case can be made that expanded gambling can generate sufficient revenue for stadium financing, there clearly is no consensus that expansion can or should be done. Tribal opposition alone is significant. Lawmakers who believe gambling is wrong to begin with certainly will not endorse what they believe to be moral turpitude in order to support, of all things, professional football.

Tuesday's one-note committee meeting again underscored the difficulty of coming up with a package to finance a new Vikings stadium.

As Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said, "Every idea has an opponent." Lanning has been working, probably harder than anyone else in the Legislature, to find a way to finance a new stadium. The gambling option is but one factor in an immensely complicated challenge. The competing and conflicting interests affecting just that single factor suggest lawmakers and the team are not close to solving the equation. -- The Forum

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