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

Nienow wants answers about "how the Dayton administration provided estimates that are so amazingly wrong and how Minnesota won't be duped again."
Nienow wants answers about "how the Dayton administration provided estimates that are so amazingly wrong and how Minnesota won't be duped again."

The e-pulltabs that are supposed to fund the state's $348 million contribution for the new Vikings stadium were initially projected to generate $35 million by the end of this year. As the Star Tribune reported last Sunday, that projection was largely the handiwork of the very gambling companies that stood to profit if e-pulltabs were approved, while the organizations that have actually run charitable gambling operations in the state for decades weren't consulted.

SEE ALSO: Vikings stadium e-pulltabs: Per-machine revenue falling far short of expectations

But thanks to a slow rollout and less-than-enthusiastic interest in the machines, the most recent projection has sliced the end-of-the-year number all the way down to a measly $1.7 million. And Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, wants answers.

In a statement released yesterday, Nienow writes that "Citizens of Minnesota were duped by the Dayton administration, and now taxpayers are going to be on the hook for tens of millions every year for thirty years." And in a separate letter, Nienow demanded that Finance Committee Chair Sen. Dick Cohen, D-St. Paul, hold "oversight hearings as soon as the legislature returns from recess next week" to get to the bottom of the yawning gap between the e-pulltab projection and reality.

Here's Nienow's entire statement, along with his letter to Cohen and other documents:

But in comments made to reporters earlier this week, Dayton said it's too early to panic about disappointing e-pulltab proceeds, adding that it's inappropriate for Republicans to try to use the issue to score political points.

"We'll work this out," Dayton said. "It's not about pointing fingers about what happened last spring .... Unless somebody can prove conclusively otherwise, I would say everybody -- the Gambling Control Board, the Department of Revenue, the Legislature, Republicans and Democrats, and my administration -- everybody acted in good faith, and has applied their best judgment to a totally unprecedented situation."

Dayton said he expects e-pulltab revenue to increase as more bars and restaurants make the machines available to patrons. But even if it doesn't, Dayton pointed out that the Vikings stadium bill contained fallback funding mechanisms, such as a stadium suite tax and sports-themed lottery.

Cohen, meanwhile, doesn't sound like he plans to hold Nienow's desired hearings any time soon. According to an MPR report, Cohen said holding a hearing now would be "premature." The e-pulltab machines are still being introduced -- only 200 bars and restaurants currently offer them, though the prevailing projection at the time the Vikings stadium bill was approved foresaw 2,500 establishments offering them by now -- and the state doesn't have a pressing need for the money it expected to take in from e-pulltabs this year.

"We're going to have to see where it leads but if we're going to do it an intelligent way, we'll do it substantively and not in a free-for-all committee hearing," Cohen said, according to the MPR report.

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