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Dayton confident that state’s Vikings stadium funding mechanism is solid

Lower-than-expected revenue from early electronic gambling is considered only a start-up issue.

Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he’s still confident about the eventual sucess of electronic pull-tab revenue – a key funding mechanism for the state’s portion of the Vikings stadium cost.

After meeting Wednesday morning with key state agency commissioners, gambling regulators and budget staff, Dayton told reporters he “was very, very assured that this is a start-up issue.”

Last week, state budget forecasters released a report that projected a reserve fund to back up bonding payments for the state’s $348 million share of the stadium would be short by about half for fiscal year 2013. The report also projected an additional $9 million reduction in the fund’s anticipated revenue each budget cycle through 2017.

Stadium opponents from last session immediately pounced on the decreased revenue projections as proof of their opposition to the funding mechanism.

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Michele Kelm-Helgen, Dayton’s chief stadium negotiator who took over logistical planning once the measure passed, said last week she wasn’t concerned with the dip in projected revenue.

She said the fund balance – which was reduced from $34 million to $16 million for the fiscal year – was adequate because the state hasn’t yet begun issuing bonds to pay for the project. In total, the state’s cushion through 2017 is projected to end up at $47 million rather than $83 million.

Tom Barrett — executive director of the Gambling Control Board, who met with Dayton today — previously said that vendors have taken longer than anticipated to roll out the new electronic gaming format. About 75 locations offer electronic pull-tabs, he said, which is down from the 300 sites the state had hoped would offer the updated gambling by now.

“What I learned additionally from Management and Budget is that the bill provided for a reserve fund that would be the first thing affected if the revenues were to consistently fall short,” Dayton said. “That hasn’t happened yet, but there’s a cushion there— more than enough to cover whatever start-up glitches there may be.”