CRE W Minnesota

Will a casino ever rise in Minneapolis?

Is a casino the answer to keeping the Minnesota Vikings in the Twin Cities? Minneapolis-based real estate developer Alatus LLC seems to think so.

Is a casino the answer to keeping the Minnesota Vikings in the Twin Cities? Minneapolis-based real estate developer Alatus LLC seems to think so.

Critics? They’re not quite as certain.

According to WDIO.com, Alatus officials visited Duluth, Minn., earlier this week. Their goal was a simple one: They were there to promote their plans to build a casino in the Twin Cities.

According to Bob Lux, principal at Alatus, plans call for a 75,000-square-foot casino to be built on the third floor of downtown Minneapolis’ Block E building. It’s an intriguing proposal for several reasons: First, the Block E building is struggling mightily today. Secondly, developers estimate that the casino could generate $100 million in state taxes every year. That money could then be used to finance a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.

Alatus completed its acquisition of the Block E building in the summer of 2010.

Of course, any Minneapolis casino is far off. It’s not easy to gain approval for a casino in a major city, just ask city leaders from my hometown, Chicago. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is working with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other state and city leaders to work out a compromise that would bring a casino to Chicago, something city officials have long coveted to as a financial generator to help shore up an ailing budget. But a final agreement still appears to be a way off, and the famed Chicago casino has been a project that’s been debated for decades.

Let’s be honest here: Aren’t cities showing a serious lack of imagination by constantly turning to casinos to solve their problems? I have no problems with casinos. (Heck, my parents are regular visitors to the casinos lining Lake Michigan in Northwest Indiana and Southwest Michigan. They’re particular fans of the Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, Mich.) I’ve visited a few Chicago-area casinos in my time and — sort of — enjoyed myself. But I would like to see officials with Chicago — and other cities across the country — break their seeming addiction to gambling as the answer to all of their problems.

Remember when the casino boats came to Gary, Ind.? Officials there painted the boats as saviors. Well, the boats have been there a long time, and the problems that plague Gary — high crime rates, sky-high unemployment — remain. It’s not fair to expect casinos to solve the long-term problems of cities. But the way gambling proponents sometimes sell their boats and land-based gambling centers, you’d think casinos were the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

A Minneapolis casino might keep the Minnesota Vikings in town. But what might really keep the football team in place would be if its wealthy owners ponied up their own funds to upgrade their stadium.