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White Earth proposal still alive in St. Paul Casino plan part of mix

Assistant Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Bill Ingebrigtsen of Alexandria -- who now represents most of Otter Tail County -- says he would support the White Earth metro casino proposal.

One of his staffers said legislators sat up and took notice when they saw White Earth had the backing of the huge Credit Suisse investment bank.

White Earth proposes giving the state $400 million for a Vikings stadium in exchange for permission to build a Twin Cities casino.

The plan includes an ongoing 50-50 revenue split between the tribe and the state. Annual revenues are projected at $300 to $400 million.

Credit Suisse, a Swiss bank with 50,000 employees in 55 counties, would provide the $400 million upfront money for the Vikings stadium and Rock Gaming LLC would be the casino developer.

Rock Gaming, according to its web site, has partnered with Caesars Entertainment, the world's largest gaming company, to develop and operate full-service casinos in downtown Cincinnati and downtown Cleveland under the Horseshoe brand.

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.

Ingebrigtsen said in an interview Thursday in Detroit Lakes that he would support the White Earth proposal, along with other funding proposals, such as electronic pull tabs and electronic lottery machines.

"I'd vote for all of it," he said. "With a caveat. If the time comes that we do no more gambling in Minnesota, then it will apply to everyone --tribes included."

He said the White Earth plan is "not a bad proposal," and that it has as good a chance of approval as anything else now under consideration by lawmakers.

"Fairness is what I hear in my district," he added. Tribes don't have to follow the state's smoking ban and they don't always have to collect sales taxes, he added. "They (my constituents) want the state to get part of the action."

The $400 million would be built into the financing of the casino.

White Earth is offering to build a casino with 4,000 slot machines, 150 gaming tables and a 500-room hotel.

No site has been selected, but Minneapolis, Arden Hills and Anoka are under consideration.

If approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature and signed into law by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, the project would bring up to $200 million a year to the people of White Earth.

By comparison, the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen brings in about $10 million a year.

It would provide an 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 could benefit from jobs at a metro casino.

It would also 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.

Regular independent audits would be part of the casino deal.

Ingebrigtsen said he'd like to see a Vikings stadium agreement within the next week.

"I think the public is ready for this," he said. "If we want to bring ourselves up a notch with the public, let's get it done now -- why wait a year?"