Dayton "very interested" in slot machines at MSP

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A proposal to put slot machines inside the state's largest airport has picked up an ally.

MPR News reports that Gov. Mark Dayton said if re-elected he may push for state-run slot machines at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Dayton has backed proposals to expand gambling. The governor first supported a state-run casino when he ran for governor in 2010. He dropped that idea after tribal casinos and local leaders objected. Also, the original plan to build a new Minnesota Vikings stadium relied heavily on expanded charitable gambling with electronic pull-tabs.

Dayton said, "We need it if we're going to be able to do what we need to do to keep Minnesota the premiere state that it is."

Casino gambling plans have always been controversial and its not clear how much money the airport proposal would generate. Previously Minnesota State Lottery officials have estimated that 300 slot machines could net Minnesota about $12 million annually.

However, lottery director Ed Van Petten said its hard to know.

He told MPR, "Until you actually get into operation it's hard to tell because you don't know exactly in an environment like that what the traffic will be."

E-pulltab gambling at the airport was expected to bring in around $3 million for a new Vikings stadium. The plan was to put IPad type devices in bars and restaurants at the airport. After six months the plan had raised just over $33,000.

In the first six months, after paying back player prizes, equipment and bar rental and taxes to the state, the airport foundation earned just $1,900 for its projects. That experiment is still continuing.

Still though the plan has its supporters in the legislature. DFL State Rep. Phyllis Kahn of Minneapolis has pushed for gambling at the airport for a decade. Kahn said it's a "no brainer" way for the state to haul in "free money."

The idea isn't a popular one with tribal leaders. They remain opposed to any state-run slot machines. The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, which runs 18 casinos around the state says their concerns are what starts at the airport would spread.

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