White Earth Tribe Offers Bold Breakthrough in Stadium Funding Stalemate

State Would Receive $400 Million Upfront

Apr 05, 2012, 12:00 ET from White Earth Nation

ST. PAUL, Minn., April 5, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- White Earth Nation announced today that it will make an upfront payment to Minnesota of $400 million as part of a new proposal for a Twin Cities casino. White Earth is proposing MinnesotaWins, a casino operated by White Earth in a business partnership with the state. The tribe and the state would each receive 50 percent of net revenue. The casino would be an off-reservation business, meaning that it would operate like other Minnesota businesses, including paying property and other taxes to state and local governments.

"The $400 million will cover the state's share of the construction cost of the new Vikings stadium," said Erma J.Vizenor, chairwoman of White Earth Nation. "It removes the need for the state to issue bonds and, in doing so, removes any doubt or delay that comes with a bond issue. Minnesota will have the money, the Vikings will be able to proceed in a timely manner – taking advantage of today's low interest rates and favorable construction costs – and taxpayers need have no concern that they will be on the hook. "

Vizenor said the tribe's revised proposal also includes the creation of a new program – funded exclusively by the tribe through the new casino – to subsidize purses at Canterbury Park and Running Aces. The program will provide up to $12 million specifically to increase the size of purses. "This will assure that these important Minnesota assets are able to support a first-class racing program and, in turn, a first-class horse industry in Minnesota," said Vizenor.

Vizenor said the revised proposal is a response to the concerns she has heard from Minnesotans. She cited three concerns that are blocking a stadium agreement. "No new taxes. In particular, the concern over blink-on taxes if pulltabs don't meet their projections.

"Agricultural interests and horse breeders are worried about their future.

"There are questions over the ability of pulltabs to generate revenue sufficient to cover the $400 million bond payment the state will be taking on to pay its share of stadium costs.

"We have listened and today we are responding with solutions that can break the gridlock. We are shovel-ready and set to go with our partnership with the state," said Vizenor.

Vizenor said the tribe recently reached agreement with two partners that are nationally recognized in their fields. Credit Suisse is joining the team as the lead investment bank and Rock Gaming LLC will be the developer.

The financial resources of Credit Suisse, the expertise of Rock Gaming and the willingness of White Earth Nation to be a good business partner with the state of Minnesota have opened the door to creative solutions to build a metro casino, said Vizenor.

Validated economic projections for the MinnesotaWins casino estimate that Minnesota would receive between $726 million and nearly $1 billion in new revenue from a Twin Cities casino during its first five years of operation. First-year net revenues to the state are estimated at $140 million and would grow to $220 million in the fifth year for a total five-year pay-out of $968 million

Joining Vizenor at the news conference were the authors of the casino legislation, Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) and Rep. Kent Eken (D-Twin Valley). 

Miller said the MinnesotaWins casino will not only deliver a new stadium for the Vikings at virtually no cost to the State, but will also provide tremendous economic benefits, both for the White Earth Nation and for all Minnesotans. "This $700 million construction project, for which White Earth has already been approved for financing, would create an estimated 2,500 jobs during the construction phase and an estimated 2,000 full-time jobs after completion. When combined with a new Vikings stadium, we would have approximately $1.7 billion of construction between the two projects and well over 5,000 jobs during the construction phases."

Eken said the plan would be especially beneficial to Minnesota's horse industry. "Right now, the racing industry is struggling. The top Minnesota-bred horses are being forced to go out of state to compete for the kind of purses that make the industry financially viable. Eventually, it's not just the horses that will go out of state, but the breeders, the suppliers and the $1 billion they add to Minnesota's agricultural economy. The MinnesotaWins proposal would go directly to benefit the horse industry and Minnesota agriculture."

Vizenor called on Governor Dayton and the Legislature to act quickly. "Minnesotans, White Earth has moved the ball to the goal line. White Earth is ready to go, union workers are ready to work, the 20,000 members of White Earth Nation are looking forward to a new way of life. We are all ready and waiting to go. It is now the Governor's and the Legislature's turn. You have the ball. It's time for MinnesotaWins.

"MinnesotaWins is the one solution...the ONLY solution...that meets the tests of fairness, common sense and no new taxes – guaranteed," said Vizenor.

The White Earth Tribe is Minnesota's largest tribe accounting for almost 40 percent of Minnesota's native population. It is also the state's economically poorest tribe. The White Earth Reservation in northwestern Minnesota was created by the Treaty of 1867.


Amanda Horner

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SOURCE White Earth Nation