Vikings stadium funding fix could include electronic Keno, poker, from state lottery

Listen: MPR's Tim Nelson reports on the proposed funding fix

It'll likely be months before the Dayton administration decides whether to turn to the backup plans built into the Vikings stadium bill last year. The options include a 10 percent suite tax at the new stadium and "games based on stadium or professional sports themes" offered by the State Lottery.

And at the Capitol, and out at the Minnesota State Lottery headquarters in Roseville, state officials are already weighing their options -- and possibly big changes to the lottery.

Executive director Ed Van Petten said familiar scratch-off games, like the Vikings-themed game that ran during the football season in 2010, or the current Twins-themed game, are likely starting points because the games are a reliable technology and well-known to lottery players.

There could also be a sports-themed lotto game, like a smaller version of the Powerball or Gopher 5 games.

But Van Petten said the Lottery could get into the electronic gambling business, too. He said his agency believes it could add display monitors to its existing ticket terminal system -- the terminals that spit out Powerball tickets now.

"There are games out there that can be played on a monitor. Keno, for instance, is a possibility, if it's acceptable to all of the players, including the governor, obviously, because he's the main decision maker from this end... There are monitor games that play poker, there are monitor games that involve horse and dog and car races, simulated races. There are quite a number of options out there."

He said the monitors could even take the form of big screen televisions in some instances, and it's theoretically possible that players could interact with the games through a vending-type machine, eliminating the interaction with a booth attendant, a bartender or a store clerk required for many existing games in Minnesota.

(Keno, by the way, is a numbers-based game that has players picking, for instance, up to 10 numbers, hoping to match numbers in a random drawing, run by computer every few minutes, sometimes even faster.)

A spokesman for the Dayton administration said that the governor hasn't made any decisions at all about the lottery's options, although lottery officials believe the stadium law gives the Minnesota State Lottery wide latitude to respond to stadium financing questions.

There are some limits in state law. The lottery can't run video slot machines: "The Minnesota State Lottery act prohibits the lottery from selling that type of game, because its electronic and its an instant reward," Van Petten said.

That said, the games could be a lot quicker than the numbers game Minnesotans are used to. "There are games that even go every four to five minutes. But it's not instant. You have to have your ticket before the drawing, whereas on a slot machine playing the game is the drawing," said Van Petten.

The Minnesota State Lottery has over 3,000 retail outlets now. Lottery officials estimate more than 2,000 might be interested in monitor-based games. The games also might draw in new business partners among the state's bars and restaurants.

Van Petten said that the shape of the games to come might also require consultation with the charitable gambling industry, calculation of the impact on other state revenue from the lottery that ISN'T earmarked for the stadium -- and other factors that may yet crop up.

And Van Petten said he hopes the entire burden of stadium funding doesn't shift to the Lottery and that charitable gambling can be a partner going forward.

"We don't view charitable charitable gaming as a competitor by any means. I think we both have admirable goals, and if there is any way we can help one another, we need to," Van Petten said."In locations where the Lottery has placed lottery vending machines in pulltab venues, pulltab sales have increased, as well as lottery sales, so there is some play off there that we can take advantage of, I think to benefit both. We have to be very careful in those marketing plans."

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