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Omission of gambling from stadium report upsets key senator

St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) The top Senate Republican criticized Gov. Tim Pawlenty's stadium commission Wednesday for ruling out expanded gambling as a funding source for new Twins and Vikings stadiums.

Senate Minority Leader Dick Day, R-Owatonna, directed his fire at the panel's chairman, Dan McElroy, who is also the Republican governor's chief of staff. McElroy was presenting the commission's final report to the Senate Local Government Operations Committee.

"You've missed a wonderful opportunity," Day said, waving a Star Tribune poll article showing 71 percent of Minnesotans in favor of putting slot machines at the Canterbury Park horse track to raise money for the sports facilities.

"I have 30 Senate Republicans that think the best way to build all your stadiums is through gambling."

McElroy said he doubted a stadium bill that calls for expanded gambling would fly because it combines two combustible issues.

"The governor has said they are separate issues," McElroy said. "He doesn't see any great connection between gaming and stadiums."

The House approved the Canterbury slot plan last year, but that bill funneled the money into the state's general treasury. The Senate didn't act, mostly because DFL leaders of that body haven't been supportive of the proposal.

Sen. Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy, backed the commission's decision.

"The more gambling you have, the more people get hurt," he said. "There's enough gambling."

The Senate committee's stadium discussion was largely preliminary. No stadium bill will receive serious consideration until after lawmakers get an update on the state's finances at the end of this month. A poor outlook will hurt the chances of a stadium bill passing, key state leaders have said.

The commission's report calls for one bill that authorizes separate stadiums for the Vikings and Twins. It suggests the use of local taxes, team owner contributions and fan surcharges to pay for them.

St. Paul and Minneapolis are competing to host the Twins, while Eden Prairie and Blaine are the main Vikings suitors. Depending on the design and infrastructure needs, the price tag for building both will top $1 billion.

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