Like a coach mulling whether to put in a backup quarterback, Minnesota lawmakers are considering alternative plans to generate revenue to help pay for the state's share of a new $1 billion Vikings stadium.
Lawmakers at a House Commerce committee meeting Wednesday night talked over the bleak news that electronic pulltab machines are not raising as much money as expected, MPR reported. The iPad devices loaded with gaming software began to filter into bars and restaurants across the state last fall.
Tax revenue on the devices was supposed to largely cover the state's $350 million share of the cost of the stadium, which is to be constructed on the site of the Metrodome, with groundbreaking to begin in October.
But so far only about 120 sites around the state are offering the games, and it was originally projected the devices would be in 2,500 sites by July 1, officials said. They are skeptical that goal can be met.
The machines generated only about $4 million in gross sales in their first three months of operation, falling short of being on track to raise an estimated $17 million by July, the Star Tribune reported.
So now what? Rep. Jennifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, suggested reviving the idea of an additional tax on Vikings game tickets, MPR reported. Lawmakers are also mulling changes that might boost the pulltab game revenue, like offering the devices in other types of establishments and speeding approval of new game providers, the Star Tribune reported.
Other backups are built into the stadium funding plan, including a tax on suites and a sports-themed lottery game, although neither of those is expected to generate big money, MPR said.
One state gaming official said some bars and restaurant owners were waiting to see if the devices were worth the investment. KARE 11 reported on one happy client: "I'm really happy on how our numbers on electronics are doing," Dan O'Gara, owner of O'Gara's on Snelling in St. Paul, told KARE.
Rep. Joe Atkins said the e-pulltabs were the "Christian Ponder of state government," the Star Tribune reported. "There were high expectations going in. But people are a little leery now."