E-pulltabs have raised as much money for the Vikings stadium as the tooth fairy

e-pulltabs vikes rect.jpg
So far, the state's e-pulltab plan has failed, and failed hard.
Lawmakers projected that e-pulltabs would raise $35 million toward the state's contribution for the new Vikings stadium during their first year of existence. Turns out that forecast was about $35 million too optimistic.

SEE ALSO: MNGOP Sen. Sean Nienow says Dayton "duped" public about e-pulltabs, demands investigation

According to numbers released yesterday by the Minnesota Gambling Control Board, e-pulltabs actually contributed $0 to the stadium cause after expenses were accounted for. Gamers spent $15 million playing e-pulltabs, but $13 million of that was gobbled up as prizes, with the remaining $2 million covering various charity expenses and taxes.

So grab your packs of smokes tightly, Minnesotans who like to light up. The one-time cigarette tax paid by wholesalers and retailers (and ultimately, smokers) earlier this year came in response to disappointing e-pulltab sales. That tax raised about $26.5 million for the stadium and about $4 million more for the general fund, the Pioneer Press reports. And legislators also approved taxing the foreign profits of Minnesota businesses as another way to make up the e-tab shortfall. (For more specifics about the timeline of how the state is paying for the Vikings stadium, read our recent interview Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chair Michele Kelm-Helgen here.)

The Field of Schemes blog explains why some think using taxes instead of gaming revenue to pay for the stadium amounts to a bait-and-switch pulled on citizens by lawmakers:
Dayton declared on Friday that his "number one take-away from this" is that "to take an untried source of revenue for the sole source of funding for a major project is ill-advised." He added, "We made an honest mistake and corrected it" -- meaning, took hundreds of millions of dollars in current cigarette taxes and future corporate taxes and handed them over to the Vikings instead. Which the state could have voted to do in the first place, but didn't because legislators would only vote to approve the thing if it involved gambling revenue, not tax money. But proposing gambling revenue and then switching to tax revenue after the fact, that's totally cool because it was an "honest mistake." Even though legislators were warning a month before the pulltab vote that gambling revenue might not come through. Hmmmm.
Why have e-pulltabs failed so hard? Some cite the fact that while you can see what winners remain in a box of old-fashioned pulltabs and adjust expectations accordingly, there's no equivalent for the electronic version. Therefore, the newfangled games are less appealing to gamers than their paper counterparts.

Others, including Senate Majority Leader-turned-bowling alley owner Amy Koch, say installing e-pulltabs, which are played on iPads, is prohibitively expensive for bars.

"The bars, it's incredibly expensive to put them in," Koch told MPR. "There's no way they're going to be able to afford to buy equipment and take six, eight months to pay off your investment and then see maybe a couple hundred bucks a month. It's not worth the trouble."

Dayton, for his part, says Minnesotans -- at least, ones who don't smoke or do business overseas -- shouldn't fret, because despite the e-pulltab debacle, the state shouldn't have any trouble raising its $348 million share of the nearly $1 billion stadium.

"There's every indication that closing some of the corporate loopholes is also going to meet its mark, and we'll have the stadium adequately financed for as long as anyone can foresee," Dayton told MPR.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.

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19 comments
swmnguy
swmnguy topcommenter

Schemes like this are always a favorite avenue for corporate welfare that would otherwise be unpopular.  We can put the burden, and any blame, on "sinners;" conveniently ignoring the fact that we're just using public means to redistribute money upward yet again.

If these stadiums and similar investments are going to be such a public benefit, fine.  Let the public pay for them, and own them.  Let the investments pay a return not just to the billionaires, but to the rest of us.  And if the billionaires want to keep the proceeds; that's fine too; they can build it themselves.

E-Pulltabs were idiotic from the start.  Minnesotans love to gamble, but we're not total saps for every single way to get fleeced.  We have all the ways to gamble that we need; we don't need any more. And if higher cigarette taxes cause people to quit smoking, so much the better.  Next we should tax alcohol until people start to quit, legalize and tax pot, tax crappy processed food and the other causes of diabesity.

barbertj23
barbertj23

How bout we just don't build a big annoying stadium?

MicheleBachmann
MicheleBachmann topcommenter

Since bar owners want to play games and resist E pulltabs they should impose a tax on drinks and offer Sunday sales on booze.   Drinking causes health and safety problems.  Not only could we pay for the stadium but if people drink less healthcare costs go down.  Less drunken driving too.   

TweetsAreYours
TweetsAreYours topcommenter

How you say, Boondoggle? #TweetsAreYours

Peter Farnsworth
Peter Farnsworth

Well maybe we could tone down the one billion dollar stadium a bit... 60% of which is coming from the taxpayer..

Marcus Nielson
Marcus Nielson

We *could* just legalize marijuana and use the tax from that to fund the stadium. Then it could be the "stoners stadium" instead of the "peoples' stadium". Block E would make a great dispensary for starters....

Melissa Niederkorn
Melissa Niederkorn

Called it before they even debuted. No one wants to play to play an electronic pulltab game - why would they? We have free games on our phones nowadays ancient lawmakers... If I want to pull a damn tab I want to pull the tab...that's the whole point, it's in the name... Classic case of plan fail and instead of reviewing need of said plan in the first place, they will forge ahead anyway against better judgement. This stadium has had more roadblocks than 35W. Maybe that means it's a bad idea? Why can't the millionaires that are determined to have this stadium pony up the difference? They should be the ones held accountable since tax dollars were not to be used to this frivolous purpose. I'm sure the brand new multi-million dollar Metrodome roof will enjoy its new home in the scrap heap.

k2yeb
k2yeb topcommenter

I dont get why people like Dayton so much. He spends other peoples money.

Also, our forefathers would cringe at the rate of taxation in this country. Yes we have "representation", that writes laws to exclude them from policies they mandate on us.

Al Bindewald
Al Bindewald

Fuck Mark Dayton, maybe his joke of a footbal team will beat the spread between rape charges and wins this year!!

ghoff80
ghoff80

@meghanyoungren And now everyone is quitting smoking too that plan shall fail as well# goodforthem

CinBlueland
CinBlueland topcommenter

Like we didn't see that coming. 

Much like Tobacco Tax revenues are down since Dayton's new tax increase..

MicheleBachmann
MicheleBachmann topcommenter

@Marcus Nielson This is the best plan.  We are fools to not consider it.  Legalizing marijuana would save us even more money when you consider the drop in crime.   Without marijuana sales criminal gangs will see their profits plummet.   Selling weed is easy and pretty risk free.   They won't be able to make up the lost revenue.  

Onan
Onan

@k2yeb - Of course the total government tax revenue (federal, state, and local) is actually lower now than pretty much any time in the last 40 years...but you knew that already, right?

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