A losing bet

Minnesota’s leaders took a gamble last year when they approved a plan to give the Minnesota Vikings $343 million for a stadium. The gamble was that an unproven plan — to raise the money by expanding charitable gambling via video pulltabs — would pay off. All indications are that this plan is not going to work, and now it’s time for those same leaders to step forward with a clear plan for fixing the situation.

The gambling plan came about because most Minnesotans are vehemently opposed to bankrolling another pro sports facility with tax dollars. If video gambling had worked out, it would have been a politically palatable method of extracting those same dollars from the Minnesota public. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out. Video gambling proceeds are a small fraction of what the governor and other leaders hoped for. The response from state leaders to that news has been, to paraphrase, “Don’t worry, it’ll be OK.” Still, Minnesotans might be pardoned if they wish there was a slightly more concrete plan.

Whenever that plan does take shape, it is to be hoped that it won’t include a further expansion of gambling; after all, the evidence is that Minnesotans already have more than enough gambling opportunities. And falling back on general fund taxes to pay the state’s stadium tab is even less palatable. The least unpleasant of these bad options might be for the Legislature to put the brakes on the whole stadium project until it can sort out where $343 million is going to come from.

It has become clear that decision-makers relied on inaccurate forecasts when they hatched their gambling-based stadium plan. It’s time now for those leaders to take stock of their options and tell Minnesotans what they’re going to do about the problem.

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