The Minnesota Senate approved the final version of a bill for a new Vikings Stadium on May 9, likely knocking the White Earth Nation's MinnesotaWins proposal out of the running.
Under the tribe's proposal called MinnesotaWins, revenues from a White Earth Nation-operated casino would be split 50-50 between the tribe and the state, and would fund the entire public share of a new Vikings stadium and other critical state priorities for years to come.
While the bill received some support from policymakers, it never got a hearing, Dr. Erma Vizenor, chairwoman of the White Earth Nation, told Indian Country Today Media Network. "We had sponsors for bills in the state legislature. We knew it was a long shot," she said, adding that the tribe attached amendments to its casino bid.
The Metrodome's 30-year-old lease expired this past year. If the new bill is authorized, the deal guarantees the Vikings a new home for the next three decades. The stadium will be built on the site of the Metrodome near downtown Minneapolis.
Gov. Mark Dayton has said he'll approve the measure, reported the Associated Press. Once Dayton signs the bill, it only requires the Minneapolis City Council's agreement.
"Nothing is over until the last encore...but I’m sure it will go through and it will pass," Vizenor said.
Unlike MinnesotaWins, the bill relies heavily on public financing. The revised bill raises the team's contribution by $50 million above the amount it initially said it would pay to $477 million, 49 percent of the total $975 million construction costs.
The terms of the bill require the state to cover $348 million of construction costs, and the city of Minneapolis, $150 million. The state's share is supposed to come through expanded gaming at the stadium, including electronic pull tabs, which are touch screen devices that mimic the traditional paper pull tab games found in bars around the state.
According to Vizenor, the video terminals at the stadium will not have any impact on the White Earth Nation's business at its 20-year-old Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen or other area gaming tribes.
Vizenor also noted that the tribe's pursuit of a casino in the Minnesota-St. Paul area was not in vain. "We worked hard, and it wasn't all for not, because we laid the foundation and created the opportunity for us to educate state leaders and also the media on the severe economic challenges we face here on the reservation," Vizenor said. "Our foundation that we have laid will be good for ongoing discussions on how the White Earth Nation and the state can work together to make Minnesota a better state for our nation, all tribes and all Minnesotans."
Due to White Earth's unprecedented proposed revenue sharing model with the State of Minnesota, the Nation has faced tribal opposition. "It was never our intention to have conflict with tribes; we only wanted to better the economic conditions of our people," Vizenor said, highlighting that White Earth is the largest tribe in Minnesota, accounting for 40 percent of the American Indian population, and is located in the poorest area of the state.
The new bill, she points out, has its flaws. "The pull-tabs proposal—all the experts around know that that is not a viable financial proposal," Vizenor said. "In another year, the state will be a billion dollars in debt. It’s not solving its financial problems. Of course, we’ll still be here with our needs."
But Vizenor rests assured that the tribe will one day see its plans for a Twin Cities casino materialize. "I’m still optimistic," Vizenor said. "There will come another time."