Gov. Mark Dayton today reacted coolly to the prospect of rebooting electronic pulltabs and possibly separating the games from a requirement that operators have traditional paper pulltabs before they blink on the electronic versions.
Rep. Joe Atkins said he'd like to talk about that idea at a House Commerce Committee meeting today.
Here's how the governor responded when asked about the idea at a press conference in his office this afternoon:
"Well, it's my understanding that the charities oppose that separation, and I don't want to reopen the whole stadium bill, and I think the best outcome would be to work with, rather than against, any of the affected parties.
The memorabilia tax, I was reminded by Michele Kelm-Helgen at our meeting, was part of the original proposal to finance and literally until the last week [of last year's session], and it was taken out because it was a tax provision, and the Republican majorities were opposed to any tax increase. To me, it fits back into the original scheme, and we're calculating how much money it will make.
We continue to believe, based on the experience of those bars and others that are now providing the e-pulltab experience, particularly when the linked bingo gets online, that these are going to be very successful ventures. There are already bars that are reporting significant increase in sales, and charities that are reporting significant increases in the amount of money they're receiving, and we just need to spread that word and make more and more people aware, both in terms of the provider and the consumer.
So it certainly is taking longer than we expected, and it will continue to be probably more gradual than we would like, but we're going to do everything we possibly can to accelerate the timetable for the development of them, again recognizing that the sites that are operating now are meeting the projections in terms of per-site revenues.*"
Dayton was also asked about the memorabilia tax proposed last week, and the subject of a tax committee hearing in the House. Dayton said he'd consider it as a supplement, rather than a backup to the existing stadium funding -- sales taxes on new gambling, boosted by electronic pulltabs and bingo.
"I think it should I think it should be in addition to. I'd like to get this settled, and people who are considering buying the bonds are going to want absolute assurance that they're going to get repaid. So this is not about trying to parse right to the find line. Its about assured sufficiency so we'll be able to meet those obligations."
Dayton was also asked if the state would need even more, besides the memorabilia tax and a better or more effective e-pulltab system. He said that remains to be seen:
"That's what the department of revenue is now assessing. The memorabilia has got a couple of different forms, different rates in the Senate and House, different applicability. They're crunching those numbers now and we'll have to work that in. But again, I want there to be sufficiency -- assured sufficiency -- so that we can be sure that the bondholders are made whole, and we can proceed with this project without political posturing or other interruptions."
And finally, he was asked if he'd talked to the Vikings about the memorabilia tax proposal, which was paired with a suite tax on all pro sports teams in the bill offered by House tax chair Rep. Ann Lenczewski.
"I have not, but Michele Kelm-Helgen has. And you know, they're aware of the realities of the situation. I don't think any of the teams are probably thrilled with this notion, but at least the Vikings recognize the imperative of having a reliable and sufficient funding source."
UPDATE: Here's the Minn. Department of Revenue fiscal note on the likely proceeds from Lenczewski's bill.
*Some establishments are meeting the per-site revenues. But on average, according to data from the Minnesota Gambling Control Board, they are actually falling far short. In March, the per-site sales were about 31 percent of the state's original projection, and that number has been declining since the games debuted in September, 2012. Also, as of March, there were only about 8 percent of the expected 2,500 sites up and running.