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Six ideas for fixing e-pulltabs and getting Vikings stadium funding back on track

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The House Commerce committee floated a whole handful of trial balloons for fixing the new gambling that's an essential piece of the Vikings stadium funding. Today's ideas ranged from tax relief to giving bonus machines to the best-performing locations in Minnesota.

"We're not looking to roll the charities, we're not looking to roll the tribes, or the lottery or anybody," said Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights. "When you have investments that aren't performing well, you look for alternatives."

Here's his 5-point plan, handed out in memo form to the members of the committee:

The plan got a mostly positive reception at a free-wheeling hearing this afternoon, although Allied Charities of Minnesota said eliminating the paper pulltab requirement risked tanking the industry.

"The paper pulltabs are doing like 99 percent of the volume today, sending in $112,000 every day in taxes," said Allied Charities executive director Al Lund. We believe to walk away from the business that brought us here today, where we can send in $41 million dollars (a year), would be the wrong thing to do."

Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township, a former director of the Minnesota Gambling Control Board, the state agency that regulates charitable gambling, pulltabs and electronic pulltabs, went one idea better. He said the state ought to revisit the taxes on charitable gaming. He said some tax relief for charities might make them more amenable to trying new things, like electronic pulltabs.

Republican representatives weighed in as well. Chaska Republican Joe Hoppe said he'd like to see some charitable gambling tax relief come out of this session.

"We all want the charities to succeed. Setting the stadium funding issue aside, this is money for little kid hockey and Cub Scouts," Hoppe said. "I think we need to worry about the health of the whole proposition... I think if we can figure out a way to try to give charities a little bit more of an incentive to do this, it helps them become healthier, it's more money for little kid hockey, and helps us pay for a stadium. I think that's what we can shoot for."

Atkins declined to rank the proposals, but said he expects at least some of them will be appearing again in bill form this session.