The latest news on Zygi Wilf’s attempt to socialize the costs (while privatizing the profits) of a new Vikings stadium came on Sunday when it was reported that Minnesota charities that rely upon pulltab revenues have cut a deal that would allow the Vikings to benefit from charitable gambling.
As I understand this deal:
1. Charities would receive a break on the amount of taxes they pay on gambling revenues. This tax revenue that would normally pay for things like schools, roads, and health care in the state.
2. But, there is the potential for additional gambling revenue to make up for the tax losses. This would be due to expansion into electronic pulltabs. As I understand electronic pulltabs, they would make for more efficient extraction of money from problem gamblers, and potentially increase the number of young gamblers in the state who haven’t expressed an interest in paper pulltabs.
3. The additional tax revenue generated from charitable gambling wouldn’t go to pay for things like schools, bridges, and healthcare. Instead, tens of millions of dollars per year would go to make debt payments on the money we’d give to Zygi Wilf to pay for a replacement stadium that the market won’t support (Wilf and Vikings fans are unwilling to pay for even half the cost of the nearly $1 billion stadium).
4. Hennepin County gets to act a backstop funding source, allowing Minneapolis residents the opportunity to pay city, county, and state taxes to subsidize Vikings season ticket holders’ tickets.
5. The Pioneer Press reports that, should electronic pulltabs not catch on with kids more interested in updating Facebook, the following backup funding sources would be used:
— a tax on luxury boxes;
— a sports-themed lottery game;
— excess revenue from Hennepin County taxes;
— an admissions tax.
Notice that taxing fans is the LAST choice, and asking Zygi Wilf to chip in doesn’t even make the list. And, a sport-themed lottery game would redirect money from the environment and general fund (schools, roads, health care) for Zygi Wilf’s benefit.
6. If allowing charitable gambling operations to switch to electronic pulltabs would increase revenues for charities, it sounds like doing so to benefit CHARITIES rather than a private business makes more sense. Personally, when I think of charitable gambling, I think of funding local sports leagues, nursing homes, and other local organizations doing good work rather than a guy with a $20 millon condo on Park Ave in New York City.
Having the financial means to pay for a stadium has never been the problem. If we work hard enough to ignore the state’s true priorities we can find the money. Yet, when faced with a Vikings stadium bill that is so bad that the public would lose money on the deal over 30 years, one has to get pretty creative about where that money comes from.
Tax Increases that Aren’t Called Tax Increases
If the only way to find the votes to GIVE the public’s money to Zygi Wilf’s private business is to extract money from gamblers, there’s a serious problem with the terms of the current bill. The state wouldn’t be relying on such embarrassingly exploitative revenue sources to meet Zygi’s Wilfare demands if it made sense. For example, if legislators voting for a Vikings stadium bill could look their constituents in the eye and say “for every dollar we invest in the stadium, we’ll get two dollars back,” legislators would line up to vote for the deal. But, that’s not the case, which is why they are doing everything they can to pretend that
– increasing taxes through gambling expansion isn’t a tax increase.
– redistributing Minneapolis’ convention center tax to Zygi Wilf isn’t a tax increase.
– Relying upon Hennepin County taxes as a backup for Wilfare isn’t a tax increase
– Creating a lottery game to generate tax revenue to subsidize Zygi Wilf’s business isn’t a tax increase.
– Decreasing the amount of taxable land in downtown Minneapolis, thus shifting the property tax burden to remaining Minneapolis property owners isn’t a tax increase.
The only two tax increases tied to this deal that actually sound reasonable are taxing luxury boxes and admissions taxes. Currently, both are listed as backup sources. Instead of asking fans to pay, the state is choosing to exploit gamblers by redirecting money that could to go charities to Zygi Wilf’s private business.