Thursday, March 24, 2011

Racino Bill in Play in Minnesota

As those of you that follow this blog know, I had recused myself from any mentions of the Racino legislation here in Minnesota because of my position at IGT and a possible conflict with the Tribes I serviced here. Interestingly enough, right about the time I was laid off a former customer complained about me just owning a racehorse is a conflict of interest. If he had bothered reading more than the one post highlighted by Racino Now in on their website (in which I did not mention the racino at all, by the way) they would have seen that I was adamant in the past about making sure I stayed very clear of the issue. Even now, I am planning on being as fair and unbiased as I can be but it’s become apparent that without the conflict of interest in my way I cannot write a blog covering our horses and Minnesota racing and not mention the racino bill.


On March 21, Sen. Dave Senjem (R-Rochester) introduced the latest incarnation of the racino bill. If by that you infer that this isn’t the first time around the block for this type of legislation, you inferred correctly. This would be try number six, if I’m not mistaken. The difference this year? Primarily that the beneficiary of the funds would not be a Vikings’ stadium, education or the general fund but earmarked for the Minnesota Future Fund to be run by the Department of Employment and Economic Development. Don’t know it? It’s because it doesn’t exist yet. DEED will be charged with investing that money in Minnesota businesses to create jobs. According to bill cosponsor Sen. Claire Robling (R-Jordan), “General fund money is short right now, but the best way to get that fund back is jobs, and that's what we need.”

The value to the racing industry is obvious. Higher purses which would lead to more horses coming north to race and being bred in the state thereby stimulating the supporting agricultural based industries like feed and hay suppliers. The industry itself would draw more stables north for the summer with the attraction of higher purses. More horses mean more trainers, grooms, blacksmiths, veterinarians all paying taxes, renting rooms, buying food and generally supporting the regional economy around the Twin Cities. As owners, we too would benefit if we are able to finish in the money enough. The possibility of actually breaking even or making money now becomes more realistic for all involved.

There is, of course, opposition to the bill. For more than a decade, Native American Tribes have owned a monopoly on gaming in the state, operating 18 casinos around Minnesota and they are actively opposed to the expansion of gaming. John McCarthy, Executive Director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that there should not be an expansion of gaming in a mature market. Ultimately what it is would be a threat to their monopoly, mostly in the south (Mystic Lake, Little Six, Treasure Island) as well as to the Milles Lacs Band of Ojibwe’s facility, Grand Casino Hinckley, whose access to Twin Cities’ traffic going north would be interrupted by Running Aces Harness Park.

A lot is going to need to be worked out to get a bill passed and signed. What percentage of the revenue goes to purses, the state, the track owners? Who will buy the machines? How will the licenses be granted? What about the economic impact to the Tribes (you can say it doesn’t matter, but when they start laying people off…it’ll matter)? I don’t see Fortune Bay or Grand Portage Casinos being affected one iota by this plan, but you can bet that the casinos I mentioned above would be affected in some way shape or form. Is there any way to mitigate that or should there be at all? Should it be all about competition and capitalism?

I can see both sides of the issue and, in a future post, I may elaborate on a win/win for both parties that a friend of mine and I talk about quite a bit over coffee, but that’s for another time. The groups of folks that I cannot identify with are the wailers about how expanded gaming is the death knell for society. Casino gambling exists in Minnesota already in a big way. Additionally, the gaming expansion being proposed is for facilities that already allow gambling – horses AND card based gambling. No one is reinventing the wheel here, so please put away the holier than thou sanctimonious arguments about the end of the world as you know it. It’s not. If you don’t want to participate in it, don’t go, but don’t claim that it’s ruinous to have gambling where there is already gambling.

I plan to attend as many of the hearings on this bill (and any others should they pop up) as I can and I’ll let you know what I see and hear as well as my impressions on the issue as things develop.

7 comments:

Kay King said...

Thanks Ted! Your level-headedness it very refreshing! See you at the Capitol!

chris riddle said...

I believe slots at the race tracks, and the existing casinos can thrive in their own markets. The fact that race tracks bring people into market by way of horsemen and spectators create more consumers for all venues. People enjoy entertainment, and variety.

Leslie said...

I am in favor of adding slots to the horse tracks although it will change the current dynamic. I just hope and pray that it will enhance tb racing rather than diminish. It seemed to coexist nicely at the beautiful and charming Delaware Park but have heard maybe not so much at Penn. I think Minmesota can figure out a way to make this work. I really enjoy some of the family oriented summer days at the races and would want to make sure that the summer meet gets the attention it deserves.

Anonymous said...

Well said! I couldn't agree more on your last point about people claiming all of a sudden to be concerned about gambling!! Those cows have left the barn a long time ago!! The Minnesota Lottery expands gambling all the time, every time they add a new scratch ticket retailer. This issue is probably the most blatant and obvious example of politicians looking out for their campaign contributors (tribal associations) rather than their constituents as I've ever seen.

Ted Grevelis said...

Thanks for reading and, especially, for taking the time to comment.

It should be a very interesting spring/summer.

lucky said...

Why a Racino!

Do you want more Green Spaces?
Mn spends millions each year to try to “save” its green spaces. Horse farms are closing and becoming very un-green acres. A Racino would reverse this trend.

Do you want to create jobs, help the construction industry, and finance business development.
High pay construction jobs will be created by a Racino. Millions will be spent on the many farms, horse racing would now be a viable investment. A Racino would put 70+ million dollars a year into helping build jobs and keeping jobs in Mn by giving the current Mn Business Development funds to compete with our neighboring states, as well as competing nationally and internationally.

Do you support fairness for all Minnesotans?
Thousands invested in horse racing in the 1980s only to have the State pull the rug out from under them with untaxed Indian gaming and the expansion of the lottery. Allowing the Racino 2000 taxed slots, compared to the 28,000 non taxed slots already in Minnesota, would insure the survival of the horse racing industry. And supported by over 70 % of Minnesotans, Who know what is best for them, their families and the state.

Do you really want to be fair to the Native Americans of Mn?
The Native Americans have come a long way in the last years of Indian gaming. By their admission they now say they are struggling, as is the whole economy of Mn. The few slots at the Racino will be but a drop in the bucket of total gaming dollars in Minnesota, but the impact of those dollars are exponential in the creation of jobs, business development, and property taxes throughout the state. The creation and return of those dollars will benefit the Native Americans even more, and the Native American Casinos will benefit from a competitive and prosperous Mn, something that a Racino will help provide. Killing horse-racing, and not allowing the state of Minnesota, to compete and prosper is just as bad for Native Americans as it is to the taxpaying citizens of Mn.

Do you support Children’s Programs?
The Governor has asked that part of the legislation be for early childhood programs. Mn is broke, and the 30 to 50 plus million that the Racino would generate will go a long way to feed lots of babies including Native American babies.

Do you believe that Minnesota’s non taxed reservations will suffer if a Racino exists?
There are thousands of people who now, because of the unfairness of the “special“ non tax paying agreement with the Minnesota Indian casinos, do not patronize those casinos out of principle. Many of them travel to Nevada, Iowa, South Dakota, or even the tax-paying casinos of Wisconsin. The $s leaving Mn are huge. The gain to Minnesota’s economy by allowing a Racino is the real benefit to the Indian Casinos, and the Native Americans living in Mn hoping to get jobs on or off the reservation. “Rising tides raise all ships.”

Do you believe that a Racino is an expansion of gambling?
The number of slot machines requested, could be drowned out in one weekend by any one of Minnesota’s Indian casinos with no legislation, and no legislation has been offered to restrict Indian casino expansion. Voting yes for a Racino and its exponential return would create a tidal wave of jobs, money, taxes and confidence which will benefit all Minnesotans, Native and non.

What is your answer to a Racino?
Caterbury is a public owned corp. All of its books are public. Major stock holders are state of Mn residents and taxpayers. The opposition to a Racino and their control
of this political issue is obvious, and their books are private and non taxpaying. Answering these questions is easy. Racino legislation should not be a fund raiser for either side of the issue. It should be based on what should be done to benefit all Minnesotans, by creating jobs for Native Americans and taxpaying citizens, a healthy business environment and fair play for all.

Please give it to your constituents with your answer of yes, as you believe in a better Minnesota for ALL.

Jerry Joubert

Anonymous said...

Why a Racino!

Do you want more Green Spaces?
Mn spends millions each year to try to “save” its green spaces. Horse farms are closing and becoming very un-green acres. A Racino would reverse this trend.

Do you want to create jobs, help the construction industry, and finance business development.
High pay construction jobs will be created by a Racino. Millions will be spent on the many farms, horse racing would now be a viable investment. A Racino would put 70+ million dollars a year into helping build jobs and keeping jobs in Mn by giving the current Mn Business Development funds to compete with our neighboring states, as well as competing nationally and internationally.

Do you support fairness for all Minnesotans?
Thousands invested in horse racing in the 1980s only to have the State pull the rug out from under them with untaxed Indian gaming and the expansion of the lottery. Allowing the Racino 2000 taxed slots, compared to the 28,000 non taxed slots already in Minnesota, would insure the survival of the horse racing industry. And supported by over 70 % of Minnesotans, Who know what is best for them, their families and the state.

Do you really want to be fair to the Native Americans of Mn?
The Native Americans have come a long way in the last years of Indian gaming. By their admission they now say they are struggling, as is the whole economy of Mn. The few slots at the Racino will be but a drop in the bucket of total gaming dollars in Minnesota, but the impact of those dollars are exponential in the creation of jobs, business development, and property taxes throughout the state. The creation and return of those dollars will benefit the Native Americans even more, and the Native American Casinos will benefit from a competitive and prosperous Mn, something that a Racino will help provide. Killing horse-racing, and not allowing the state of Minnesota, to compete and prosper is just as bad for Native Americans as it is to the taxpaying citizens of Mn.

Do you support Children’s Programs?
The Governor has asked that part of the legislation be for early childhood programs. Mn is broke, and the 30 to 50 plus million that the Racino would generate will go a long way to feed lots of babies including Native American babies.

Do you believe that Minnesota’s non taxed reservations will suffer if a Racino exists?
There are thousands of people who now, because of the unfairness of the “special“ non tax paying agreement with the Minnesota Indian casinos, do not patronize those casinos out of principle. Many of them travel to Nevada, Iowa, South Dakota, or even the tax-paying casinos of Wisconsin. The $s leaving Mn are huge. The gain to Minnesota’s economy by allowing a Racino is the real benefit to the Indian Casinos, and the Native Americans living in Mn hoping to get jobs on or off the reservation. “Rising tides raise all ships.”

Do you believe that a Racino is an expansion of gambling?
The number of slot machines requested, could be drowned out in one weekend by any one of Minnesota’s Indian casinos with no legislation, and no legislation has been offered to restrict Indian casino expansion. Voting yes for a Racino and its exponential return would create a tidal wave of jobs, money, taxes and confidence which will benefit all Minnesotans, Native and non.

What is your answer to a Racino?
Caterbury is a public owned corp. All of its books are public. Major stock holders are state of Mn residents and taxpayers. The opposition to a Racino and their control
of this political issue is obvious, and their books are private and non taxpaying. Answering these questions is easy. Racino legislation should not be a fund raiser for either side of the issue. It should be based on what should be done to benefit all Minnesotans, by creating jobs for Native Americans and taxpaying citizens, a healthy business environment and fair play for all.

Please give it to your constituents with your answer of yes, as you believe in a better Minnesota for ALL.

Jerry Joubert