Turns out Minnesotans aren’t big airport gamblers; funding for stadium is falling way short.

When the Minnesota Vikings planned to build a new stadium so they could move out of the Metrodome, they turned to the state of Minnesota to help them fund the new venue. The state eventually agreed to pony up $348 million toward the project – a tough sell, given the public’s increasing skepticism about public financing for professional sports stadiums.

E-Gambling Machines for Airport

Given that sentiment, Minnesota came up with a way to make the price tag more palatable: they planned to finance the cost of the stadium by introducing electronic gambling machines to many locations throughout the state. The proceeds from these e-gambling games would be designed to offset the cost of the stadium, meaning that the state wouldn’t have to use tax revenues to pay for the Vikings’ new home.

Of course, that plan required people to actually play the new games once they were available.

Minnesota is finding that the e-gambling revenues are falling well short of their projections, and in some cases, are on pace to return as little as 2% of what was predicted this year. And while officials feel confident that the numbers will improve as Minnesotans become more aware and more comfortable with the machines, that could still leave them well short of their target for financing the stadium.

The 2% figure comes from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, which has been the largest – and perhaps most disappointing – example of how far short the e-gambling machines are coming up of their targets. The airport was one of the first in the country to offer gambling when it did so this January (likely the first outside of Nevada), and state officials projected that the games there would bring in $3 million this year alone.

Not Quite on Target

For the first half of the year, however, the airport gaming has brought in a paltry $33,586 in player spending. Of the six bars and restaurants in the airport that have the electronic games, just two of them are responsible for about 60% of that small total.

The games in question are electronic versions of pull-tabs, and can be played on iPads in various bars and restaurants found throughout the airport. This limited distribution is considered a test run, and one that airport officials are allowing to continue for another six months despite the disappointing results so far.

Officials say that one key to getting more players for the machines is to make sure that staff at these venues understand what the games are, how to play them, and most importantly, how to encourage patrons to give them a try. In fact, promotional training is being started for workers at the airport in order to help them give such encouragement, as the games are much more likely to be played if they are promoted by staff.

Still, it’s going to take a lot of new customers for these games to put a dent in the price of the new Vikings stadium. After accounting for the 85% of the money spent on the games that was returned in prizes, the rent paid to the bars and for the iPads, and state taxes, only $1,900 has been raised for the MSP Airport Foundation – not enough to buy a season ticket for the Vikings, let alone help build a stadium.