State senator wants investigation of e-pull tab projections

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A Minnesota lawmaker wants a Senate committee to investigate how the state came up with such off-the-mark estimates of the electronic pull tab revenue it's relying on to help fund a new Vikings stadium.

Republican Sean Nienow of Cambridge was skeptical of projections estimating revenue from electronic pull tabs and bingo at $35 million a year when the Legislature approved the stadium funding plan last year. Now, with revenue running at less than $2 million, Nienow wants the Senate finance committee to hold hearings on the issue.

The Star Tribune reported last weekend that companies with a stake in the games provided the numbers on which the revenue estimates were based.

The hearings Nienow is requesting seem unlikely to happen. Committee chair Dick Cohen tells MPR hearings would be premature. Gov. Mark Dayton has said that as the games catch on, revenue could still bounce back and cover the $348 million the state has committed to the stadium.

Currently the games are far less accessible to Minnesotans than originally planned. The Pioneer Press reports that while they were expected to be in 2,500 bars and restaurants, as of last week they were in fewer than 200.

Pioneer Press columnist Ruben Rosario argues the state should tear up the stadium deal, which he thinks "legislators and the governor were bamboozled into making."

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After an initial launch in the Twin Cities, electronic pull tabs are popping up in bars across the state, including in Rochester, Mankato and Duluth. The iPad-based gambling games are a state-approved revenue generator for the new $975 million Vikings stadium.