A Minnesota state lawmaker has proposed the idea of adding slot machines to the state’s racetracks. Tom Hackbarth, a Republican state legislator for Cedar, Minnesota, said that the increased revenue from slot machines could help to create the revenue to finance a new stadium for the National Football League’s Minnesota Vikings. Experts estimate the cost of a new stadium at nearly US$1 billion, with US$700 million coming from state funds.

Hackbarth recommended that the state amend its constitution to allow slot machines at two Minneapolis-area racetracks, Running Aces Harness Park in Columbus and Canterbury Park in Shakopee. He said that slot machines would be a preferable alternative to raising taxes to generate money for stadium construction. The state has recently finished work on new facilities for Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins and for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football team.

Hackbarth mentioned in a radio interview last week that the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the indoor facility formerly used by the Twins and the Gophers and currently in use by the Vikings, is no longer up to the task of hosting sporting events or major concerts. The Metrodome was constructed in 1982 as a multi-use facility with artificial turf and a roof inflated by air pressure.

Local residents have expressed concern that, when the Vikings’ lease at the Metrodome expires in 2011, the team’s owners may consider moving the franchise to another city. If Hackbarth’s proposal were successful, the measure would be put before the voters in next year’s general election. If slot machine income were sufficient to cover stadium construction costs, the continued revenue stream would go into the state’s general fund.

A group of native tribes who operate casinos in the state are against Hackbarth’s proposal. A spokesman for the Minnesota Indian Gaming Commission said that his group has doubts as to the level of income such slot machines could generate for the state and if it would be enough to cover stadium construction. With gaming revenues down across the globe, the idea itself could pose a big gamble for the state.