Nationals

Lagging Vikings stadium funds concern lawmakers

Lagging Vikings stadium funds concern lawmakers

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) A leading Democratic state lawmaker said Wednesday he is growing more concerned about the reliability of tax revenue from electronic gambling machines that is supposed to help pay for construction of a new Minnesota Vikings stadium.

``I'm more concerned than I was before the hearing,'' said Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, after the House Commerce Committee - which he chairs - met to review the recent rollout of the electronic pull-tab games in bars and restaurants.

Tax revenue from those games is supposed to fund the state's $348 million share of the $975 million Vikings stadium slated for downtown Minneapolis. But the tax revenue from the games, which started to become available in September, fell short of projections by $18 million through the end of 2012: while $35.2 million was projected to come in, the games returned only $17.2 million in tax revenue.

Backers of the new games said they need time to get more popular and expand to other bars.

``We would ask for your patience,'' said Allen Lund, executive director of Allied Charities of Minnesota. Legal gambling in bars is operated by Minnesota charitable organizations, from youth sports clubs to veterans groups. ``When all the distributors who want these products have it to sell, those numbers will go up exponentially. If we could get some patience, we would appreciate it.''

Atkins, who voted for the Vikings stadium plan when the Legislature approved it last spring, pointed out that lawmakers have only a few months if it becomes necessary to retool the bill. He said it was still too early to make that call, pointing out that the stadium bill did include backup revenue sources in the form of a sports-themed lottery and a stadium suite tax.

But Atkins also said he believes that even recently downgraded revenue projections on the games are still too optimistic.

State gambling regulators had initially projected that the games would be available at 2,500 sites around the state by October of last year. But today, they are only available at 120 sites; the 2,500 goal has been pushed back to this coming July.

``I think at this point that 2,500 by July seems very aggressive,'' Atkins said.

Tom Barrett, executive director of the state's Gambling Control Board, said charitable organizations have been slow to sign on to the electronic games because they are faithful to longtime distributors of paper games. He predicted that interest would accelerate once his agency approves more distributors to distribute electronic games, beyond the two that have been approved.

So far, the availability of the electronic games has not lessened the popularity of traditional paper pull-tabs, which some had predicted. Barrett said sales of paper games rose in the last fiscal year and are on track to rise another 8 percent in the current one.

Barrett also pointed out that little has been spent so far on marketing the new games and he predicted a boost in gambling activity when the first distributors are approved to offer an electronic bingo game that charities believe will be popular.

The groundbreaking for the new stadium is supposed is tentatively set for October 2013, with a hoped-for opening by 2016.

Atkins instructed Barrett to apprise lawmakers on a regular basis of revenue collections on the games. He pointed out that the current session will end in May.

``Our window of opportunity, if changes become necessary, closes in four months,'' Atkins said.

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Max Scherzer grits his way through broken nose in stellar outing, win vs. Phillies

Max Scherzer grits his way through broken nose in stellar outing, win vs. Phillies

WASHINGTON -- With a broken nose, pronounced black eye and seven shutout innings, Max Scherzer provided a striking capper to the Washington Nationals' day-night doubleheader sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Scherzer himself? He shrugged off his work in the Nationals' 2-0 victory Wednesday night as business as usual.

"Trust me, this thing looks a lot worse than it actually is," Scherzer said. "I felt zero pain. There's been plenty of other injuries where I felt a lot of pain and I've had to pitch through. I'll hang my hat on those starts, but tonight I felt zero pain. This is part of what you have to do. You take the ball every fifth time.

"That's my responsibility to the team, to make sure I always post, and I knew I could post tonight."

Brian Dozier and Victor Robles hit solo homers to support Scherzer (6-5) as Washington won for the 16th time in 23 games. Philadelphia has dropped seven of its last nine and 12 of 18.

In the first game, Patrick Corbin struck out eight while allowing one run over seven innings as the Nationals earned a 6-2 victory in the delayed series opener after the teams were rained out Monday and Tuesday.

Scherzer bunted a ball off his face during batting practice Tuesday, but it didn't stop him from making his scheduled start. His injury may have provided an extra layer of intimidation in the form of a black eye more worthy of a boxing ring than a baseball diamond.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner sported a pronounced bruise arcing beneath his right eye, adding another hue to a glare that already featured one blue eye and one brown eye.

"Going out there and throwing, the only thing I had to deal with was the swelling underneath the eye," Scherzer said. "It was kind of jiggling around, and so in warmups I just had to get used to knowing what it was feeling like to throw the ball and just have that swelling."

While he wasn't at his most efficient on a humid night, piling up 117 pitches, Scherzer was rarely threatened. He struck out 10, yielded only four hits and permitted just two runners to reach scoring position. And he finished strong, striking out three in a row after Cesar Hernandez led off the seventh with a double.

"It really is one of the most impressive things I've seen in a while," Dozier said. "He's probably the best pitcher in our generation, and you don't get that status unless you take the ball every fifth day, no matter if you're doing good, doing bad, you got a broken nose. You always want the ball."

Bryce Harper, Scherzer's former Nationals teammate, was 0 for 4 with four walks in the doubleheader and was loudly booed before each plate appearance -- especially in the better-attended nightcap. This series is his second trip back to Washington, where he played from 2012-18, since signing a 13-year, $330 million contract with Philadelphia in March.

Dozier belted a two-out solo shot in the second off Jake Arrieta (6-6), who allowed two hits and struck out three over six innings and had the misfortune of matching up with Scherzer on the wrong day.

"Max is just one of the best to ever toe the rubber, honestly," Arietta said. "We have ran into him a couple of times. That's just what he does. He is tough to square up, and he is throwing three or four pitches for strikes with electric stuff. Just a tough one."

Robles homered off reliever Pat Neshek in the eighth. Neshek departed two batters later with a left hamstring strain, and manager Gabe Kapler said he was likely to land on the injured list less than a week after returning from an absence of more than three weeks caused by a shoulder strain.

Wander Suero pitched a perfect eighth for Washington, and Sean Doolittle worked the ninth for his 15th save in 18 tries.

Philadelphia was 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position between the two games.

Corbin (6-5), whose start was pushed back twice this week, allowed a solo homer to Scott Kingery in the first inning of the opener. But he let just one other runner to reach third while ending a personal three-game skid.

"It's not ideal, but you have to deal with it to make sure you are ready," said Corbin, who is one strikeout shy of 1,000 for his career. "I was glad we got that one in today."

Dozier and Gerardo Parra had RBI doubles against Phillies starter Zach Eflin (6-7). They later hit back-to-back homers in the eighth inning off Cole Irvin to seal the victory.

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This Nationals fan's Max Scherzer broken nose shirt is the best thing you'll see today

This Nationals fan's Max Scherzer broken nose shirt is the best thing you'll see today

Nationals ace Max Scherzer added another incredible chapter to his legendary career Wednesday, pitching seven shutout innings against the Phillies after breaking his nose in a batting practice accident the day before. 

To honor Scherzer's toughness, one amazing Nats fan wore arguably the greatest shirt ever seen at a baseball game.

(Photo: NBC Sports Washington)

This isn't a good shirt. This is a GREAT shirt, worthy of the man who's face it features. 

Someone get this fan a signed Scherzer baseball. 

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