Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Block E Casino Plan Unveiled. "Minnesota Live" Stealth Development.

Excerpt from Star Tribune:
A stealth plan to transform Minneapolis' ailing Block E into a gambling and entertainment hub that could draw millions of tourists from across the Upper Midwest is about to land at the State Capitol.

Alatus LLC, the Minneapolis developer that bought the downtown entertainment complex at a deep discount last summer, has been meeting quietly with downtown business leaders since last summer on plans for a Bellagio-style, state-run casino, along with privately owned retail and restaurants.

On Wednesday, company officials, along with House Rep. John Kriesel and Sam Grabarski, head of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, presented plans for the luxury casino they say will yield thousands of jobs and millions in sales -- all without public funding. The working name of the redevelopment: Minnesota Live.

Kriesel, a freshman Republican legislator from Cottage Grove, will carry the House bill needed to create a downtown casino. Like other Republicans, Kriesel opposes Gov. Mark Dayton's plan to raise taxes as a way of alleviating the state's $5 billion deficit, but said he could see expanded gambling as part of a final budget solution. Sen. Doug Magnus, an assistant majority leader, will carry the bill in the Senate.

"I know the governor wants a little more revenue," Kriesel said. "You know what? I'm all about compromise." Magnus said he supports the proposal because "I really do believe a strong, vibrant Minneapolis is good. It's one of the keys to the state."

Magnus and Kriesel's task is a delicate one. Until now, casino gambling has been the exclusive province of the state's American Indian tribes, who until recently thought their biggest fight was against a proposal to put video slots at horse-racing tracks.

The bill faces some high hurdles. The GOP-dominated Legislature remains divided on expanded gambling. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has said he does not support it.