FREE SPEECH ZONE | Vikings Say Scratch Lotto Game Could be Part of Vikings Tax Plan

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We’ve heard for some time that the Minnesota Vikings, and likely Vikings Tax bill sponsors Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead and Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, may be interested in using gambling to fund a new Vikings stadium. For the most part, this conversation has centered on the so-called ‘racino’ plan, where slot machines would be located at Canterbury and Running Aces race tracks and the revenues would go toward stadium expenses. Now, with public support still very low, the team is grasping at straws.

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The Vikings say that a $10 scratch-off game they started in the summer of 2010 in partnership with the Minnesota State Lottery has already generated $12 million in sales. But since 3/4 of sales revenue gets spent on prizes and overhead, it only netted about $3 million for the state. The Viking’s stadium lobbyist Lester Bagley says the team would like to have lottery proceeds from such tickets diverted to a Vikings Stadium. “It’s a user fee, a voluntary piece that [benefits] the state,” Bagley asserts. And since teams in other states are doing it, Bagley reasons, so should the Vikings.

At an impromptu press conference at the Metrodome Thursday afternoon (2/10/2011), Bagley seemed to imply that the revenue generated from the Vikings lottery game would not have been raised had the Vikings brand not been on the tickets. While I’d agree that some lottery players bought tickets specifically because the Vikings logo was on them, I know that many lottery players would be buying tickets regardless of what the game was. As a result, diverting money from a Vikings lottery ticket to a stadium would inevitably reduce the amount of money that the lottery contributes every year to the State General Fund ($67.4 million), the Game and Fish Fund ($11.7 million), the Natural Resources Fund ($11.7 million), and the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund ($31.3 million). That adds up to $54.7 million annually toward “our priceless natural resources,” that the lottery touts in it’s advertising, plus $67.4 million annually toward our General Fund, the loss of which would make our $6.2 billion budget deficit much worse. All dollar amounts are from 2010, and can be found at the MN Lottery Website.

Even if we were to make the ridiculous assumption that a Vikings Scratch Game funding a Vikings Stadium would not reduce lottery proceeds for the above funds, such a gambit would still only amount to a small part of a stadium funding scheme. There simply isn’t much money to be had. 75.5% of the money the lottery collects is spent on prizes and overhead expenses, including commissions for lottery retailers. It would take a lot of lottery tickets to make a serious dent in the price of a stadium, and it would take 400 million $10 lottery tickets to pay for an entire stadium, assuming 75% overhead and no interest on bonds. If you double the $3 million net profit from the Vikings tickets since last summer (to make an “annual estimate” of revenue), you get $6 million a year. This level of sales would generate $600 million for a Vikings stadium…and it would only take 100 years.

Fundamentally, this is a sneaky way for the Vikings to snatch money from the State General Fund and environmental programs in a desperate attempt to cobble together a package of subsidies at a time when no government entity in Minnesota can afford to pay for the programs they already have, much less a subsidy for a New Jersey billionaire.