The chair of Minnesota's House Commerce Committee said he will initiate discussions about changing electronic gambling rules Tuesday, aiming to improve revenues that are falling far short of the amount needed to fund the state's share of the $1 billion Vikings stadium.
Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights) said the time to make changes is now, before the state tries to sell stadium bonds this summer.
"I think folks are where I was at three months ago, which is that if you go out to sell bonds in August, and you don't have some sense of where the revenue is coming from, this issue, which is already hot, is going to be white hot and overwhelming," Atkins said.
That's different from what Gov. Mark Dayton said last week. He called concerns about the games "overblown" and urged further patience with the new pultabs and bingo, although he also said he was open to a fix.
Atkins said he's already got a half-dozen suggested fixes for the games. They include dropping the requirement that gambling operators have traditional paper pulltabs in place before they go electronic. Here's what he had to say:
"We've heard a lot about the paper pulltab requirement, and whether or not that still needs to be in place, in particular for, as we we look forward. I've been approached by three entities now that would like would like to get into the electronic pulltab business, but they really aren't interested in having paper pulltabs... They're not a bar with peanut shells and pulltab tearings on the floor. It just doesn't quite fit with what they're hoping to do... When we talked about electronic pulltabs, we talked about the new generation, the 20-something, the 30-something. And then the places that cater to 20-somethings and 30-something aren't doing it because they don't want to do the paper."
Atkins said he plans to discuss six or seven ideas, but that he'll leave the agenda open for other members of the committee to make their own suggestions. He said he doesn't plan to have a bill before the committee or take extensive testimony.
"We're trying to do it in as non-threatening a way as we can," Atkins said. "We're just going to throw some ideas on how we can make electronic pulltabs work a little better against the wall and see what sticks and see if anything merits further discussion."