Dayton administration said in 2011 e-pulltab predictions relied on gambling industry

The Dayton administration seems to be of several minds regarding the role the gambling industry played in the revenue estimates for electronic pulltabs, now of such concern for the financing of the Vikings stadium.

The revenues are coming in far below the initial estimates, and the locations that have the machines are lagging far behind what the state thought would be up and running by now.

Here's what Gov. Mark Dayton told the Associated Press, in the wake of a story over the weekend noting that the administration's figures were based on gambling industry estimates:

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Mark Dayton says Minnesota's Gambling Control Board should have disclosed from the beginning that gambling companies helped estimate the amount of tax revenue that would be raised by new electronic pulltab games tapped to fund a new Minnesota Vikings stadium.

Those projections were much higher than what's been raised so far. Dayton tells The Associated Press Monday he wasn't aware of the input from an industry that stood to profit from the new games, until the Star Tribune reported it Sunday.

But the Dayton administration -- in estimates made in 2011 -- said its own projection of pulltab revenue was based on gambling industry estimates. Here's the relevant passage from a letter issued by Dayton's Department of Revenue, a fiscal note on electronic gambling. It is dated October 17, 2011 and was published on MPR's Capitol View blog on Feb. 2, 2012.

"The Gambling Control Board estimates there would be an average of 8 machines per site, and each machine would average $250 in gross receipts per day for 364 days per year. The $250 per day is based on industry estimates from Florida."

The Dayton administration even rethought that projection and pared it back -- from an original estimate of machines making $250, down to making $225 a day -- in a revised fiscal note dated March 12, 2012 that also used information from the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association to make a revenue projection.

Then there's the Nov. 3, 2011 MPR interview with Minnesota Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans, who also cited "the industry" as one of two factors his department used to make its business prediction for electronic pulltabs.

Sen. Sean Nienow (R-Cambridge)

Skeptics, like GOP Sen. Sean Nienow, of Cambridge, say they find Dayton's explanation that he didn't know wanting. "You can't tell me that Commissioner Frans didn't brief the governor about this revenue," says Nienow, who opposed the Vikings stadium last year. "[Dayton] maybe just didn't remember. But this isn't like a local ball field in New Brighton, and he just couldn't be expected to keep up on the details."

Nienow says he thinks Dayton and his fellow DFLers are trying to avoid responsibility for the disappointing results. "They don't want to own up to it," Nienow says. "They wanted a funding plan that arguably might work, and they said, 'Go for it'."

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