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White Earth pitches casino as way to help state, tribe

Chairwoman Erma Vizenor of the White Earth Nation stands in front of a MinnesotaWins banner Thursday. MinnesotaWins is a White Earth plan to build a Twin Cities casino, with profits split between the tribe and state.

ST. PAUL - A White Earth Nation proposal to build a Twin Cities casino that could help fund a new stadium is the most acceptable plan to help the Minnesota Vikings and state government, the tribe's chairwoman says.

"This is the only solution that is fair to all Minnesotans," Chairwoman Erma Vizenor said today.

An earlier estimate indicated a new Twin Cities casino could produce $300 million profit a year, which Vizenor said would be split between the tribe and the state. Today, she said a new study for the financial impact will be available early next month.

The proposal would provide funds for the state to pay its part of a Vikings stadium, and send the state money indefinitely for other purposes, the chairwoman said.

"All with no new taxes," Vizenor added.

White Earth worked with then Gov.-Tim Pawlenty in 2005 to build a Twin Cities casino, but the plan never gained much legislative support and Pawlenty dropped it.

Other tribes, especially those with Twin Cities-area casinos, opposed that plan and some tribal leaders said they did not like the new White Earth proposal when Vizenor discussed it in December.

Vizenor said the proposal is for White Earth only, but she always is talking to other tribal leaders.

Rep. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, said the entire state would benefit from the casino. And he said the casino is likely to get more support than other funding proposals.

"This is not just for the Vikings," said Eken, sponsor of a House bill for the casino. "This is not just for the tribe."

Vizenor said that the tribe has not found a senator to author the bill, but still is looking.

The chairwoman said that Gov. Mark Dayton supports the White Earth casino, but in his last public comments on stadium funding he said he leaned toward authorizing electronic pull tabs.

Vizenor said that the tribe has no preference as to where a casino is built in the Twin Cities area. She said the tribe is willing to set up a temporary casino to start money flowing to the state and tribe quickly.