Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published April 05 2012
White Earth pledges $400 million for stadium in exchange for Twin Cities casino
“Minnesota will have the money and the Vikings will be able to proceed in a timely manner,” White Earth Chairwoman Erma Vizenor told reporters this morning.
However, the money would come only after a casino receives final approval, which might not come until after a lengthy court challenge.
Opponents to the plan include the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, which represents most Minnesota American Indian tribes with casinos but not White Earth.
Today’s announcement was a tweak to a proposal Vizenor announced in February to work out a casino partnership with the state. The northwestern Minnesota tribe would foot the entire $700 million to build a casino and split profits with the state.
Vizenor said casino planners are looking at several potential locations, including Minneapolis, Arden Hills and Anoka.
The tribe says it does not get enough profit from its existing casino in Mahnomen and since 2005 has sought a Twin Cities presence. White Earth members make up 40 percent of the state’s American Indians, and it is the poorest tribe in Minnesota.
Besides promising the state $400 million up front, the White Earth plan would give $12 million to Canterbury Park and Running Aces to improve purses at the state’s two horse-racing tracks. The two tracks long have sought permission to expand their own operations to allow casino-style gambling, but bills introduced this year appear to lack votes to pass.
Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said the White Earth plan would not ban so-called racinos.
Rep. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, said the horse-racing provision was added because the $1 billion-a-year horse industry is struggling, and many Minnesota horses are taken out of state to race.
Eken earlier introduced a bill to implement the White Earth plan, known as Minnesota Wins, but it has not received a hearing. Miller has introduced the Senate companion.
The senator said the White Earth proposal fulfills his constituents’ stadium wishes: “I don’t want to pay for it, but it is time to get this done.”
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, called the White Earth idea interesting, but doubted there are enough votes to pass it. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton earlier downplayed its changes.