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Trying to Sack the Expansion of Gambling for a Vikings Stadium

October 28, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A group of lawmakers and religious leaders is voicing its opposition to any gambling expansion for revenue to help fund a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. Brian Rusche, executive director of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, says once all the glitter is gone, the social ills will remain if a state-authorized casino is approved.

"I don't doubt that there would be some razzmatazz and a wonderful ribbon-cutting ceremony with searchlights and stars and all that stuff – but my concern is, three to five years down the road, what does it do to a community? What's it like to have pawnshops and check-cashing storefronts, and more drug trade and more prostitution? I mean, that's what you get when you have a casino sited in the center of an urban area."

Rusche believes approval of new gambling facilities, or even a single casino, would open the door statewide.

"If they authorized a casino in downtown Minneapolis, what would be the rationale for saying 'no' to the Brainerd Lakes Area, or to Worthington or to Crookston? My concern there is, I don't think it would be possible for them to authorize just one."

In addition to the coalition, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle also are opposing the idea of using gambling expansion or revenue for the stadium. State Sen. Dave Thompson (R-Dist. 36, Lakeville) thinks the state would be on the losing end, financially.

"The studies that have been done have demonstrated that, as gambling expands and more and more people get into it, the social cost is so high. Depending on what study you look at, it's about a two or three-to-one ratio of losing money because of the fact that your human services demands go up so dramatically. So, it really isn't a good budget solution."

Others point out that there's already gambling in Minnesota and that the state should share in the proceeds. They also note the plan would create jobs.

The Vikings want to build a $1.1 billion stadium in Arden Hills with $300 million from the state. Gov. Mark Dayton is expected to call a special session for consideration of a plan next month.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN