Indian Gaming Now

Racino Legislation in Minnesota

Mar 21 2011
Minnesota lawmakers once again will consider the expansion of legalized gambling in the state.  Today, Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, along with Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, and Rep. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, are expected to introduce legislation that will authorize gaming machines at two race tracks.  The proposed racinos locations are gaming devices at Running Aces, along Interstate 35 near Forest Lake, and Shakopee’s Canterbury Park.  While the two horse parks already can offer poker and gaming tables, the addition of slot machines would put them in direct competition with tribal casinos.

Canterbury Park is near the Shakopee Mdewakanton Dakota Community's highly successful Mystic Lake Casino.  Both Canterbury Park and Running Aces are a short drive from the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and in closer proximity than several other nearby tribal casinos.

The legislation is being posited as a solution to Minnesota's $5 billion projected budget deficit.  And while some are raising concerns that tribal casinos will be hurt, those supporting the legislation maintain that the competition will be healthy.  This morning on Minnesota Public Radio, the chief lobbyist working on the legislation, former state Senator Dick Day suggested that Minnesotans would want competition for tribal casinos, incorrectly implying that tribal casinos do little for the state's economy because there is no tribal-state revenue sharing provision in the Minnesota compacts.

The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, which opposes the proposed legislation, has more accurate information about the economic impact of tribal casinos.  And, for what it's worth, Minnesota is not the only state without direct revenue sharing.  It may be the only state that has a lucrative tribal gaming market and no revenue sharing, but it's important to remember that Minnesota's lucrative market is only in the Twin Cities area.  The northern part of the state is rural, and the tribal casinos there more closely resemble those in North Dakota and South Dakota.  According to MIGA, the proposed legislation "could do serious harm to tribal gaming and the jobs and benefits that thousands of tribal employees rely on. Expanding gambling at the expense of Indian tribes doesn't just affect the casinos; it affects the ability of tribal governments to provide the programs and services that Indian communities rely on--education, health care, housing, child and elder care, and vital infrastructure."

And that's worth thinking about.  Under the proposed legislation, the Minnesota State Lottery would operate the machines, and the revenue would be earmarked for "economic development," as determined by the state legislature.  When asked whether the revenue could be used for a new Vikings stadium, Day said it could, but it would be up to the state legislature to decide.

We think the state legislature should weigh the benefits of tribal gaming not only to the state, but to those folks who need it most.  We think the state legislature should pay attention to the role tribal gaming plays in building strong and healthy reservation communities.  There's no doubt that the state is in a budget crisis -- but proposals to expand legalized gambling must be considered in the context of the socio-economic impact of tribal gaming on some of our state's poorest residents.

Read more:
St. Cloud Times
Star Tribune