Minn. Tribal Groups Rally Against Gambling Bills

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota bar owners who hope to increase their menu of gambling options, and tribal casino interests who oppose it, clashed at the state Capitol Tuesday as both sides tried to claim they want to create and protect jobs.

“The focus on this is helping communities all across the state,” said Dan O’Gara, a St. Paul bar owner and president of a coalition of bar owners that unveiled a bill to let drinking and eating establishments offer electronic bingo, electronic pull-tabs and video slot machines.

Tribal interests that oppose a gambling expansion in bars, as well as another proposal at the Legislature to let two Minnesota racetracks offer slot machines, sponsored a large rally Tuesday in pouring rain outside the Capitol. A crowd that a State Patrol officer estimated to be at least 1,500 chanted a message that echoed their opponents on the issue: “Don’t gamble with my job.”

Curt Kalk, secretary/treasurer of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, which owns two central Minnesota casinos, said tribes fear that more gambling options at bars, racetracks or both would not create new customers for the game so much as attract them away from existing casinos.

“What we would see would be simply a massive transfer of jobs and economic activity away from communities around casinos,” Kalk said. Calling tribal casinos “the most dynamic economic engine that rural Minnesota has ever seen,” Kalk said the Mille Lacs Band estimates it could lose up to 40 percent of its business if the nearby Running Aces horse-racing track in Columbus were allowed to have slot machines.

But supporters of expanded gambling options, both the racino backers and bar/restaurant owners, are dangling tantalizing sums of tax proceeds from their proposals as lawmakers try to figure out how to eliminate a projected $5 billion budget shortfall in the upcoming two-year state budget.

Lawmakers pushing for the racino, which would authorize slot machines both at the Columbus track and at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, say the state would raise $250 million in the next two years. Their bill proposes that money go into a special fund aimed at new job creation in the state.

O’Gara’s coalition, Profit Minnesota, estimated that charities that benefit from bar and restaurant games would see $230 million a year in additional revenue, and that the state general fund would see $630 million in additional tax revenue.

O’Gara said bar owners believe more gambling options would increase traffic through their restaurant, driving up profits that would allow them to hire more workers, add employees, and fix up their buildings after several years of business struggles. Owners said they’ve been hurt by the slumping economy, the statewide smoking ban implemented in 2007, and stricter legal limits on blood-alcohol levels that qualify as drunken driving.

Howard Zimmer, owner of Howie’s Sports Bar and Grill in St. Cloud, said he’s offered paper pull tabs for years but that it doesn’t drive business the way it used to.

“These days everyone is playing with their cell phone or their iPad,” Zimmer said. “Paper pull tabs are just not exciting. You go to a casino, all you do anymore is punch buttons. So it’s just modernizing it, if you will.”

Zimmer said in the last few years he’s trimmed his payroll from 30 to 17 employees. Linda Dahl, owner of Herbie’s Bar in Carlos, near Alexandria, said she’s gone from 20 employees to six in the past five years.

But employees of tribal casinos and occupants of nearby communities said jobs provided by those establishments have been a godsend. Patricia O’Brien, a member of the Mille Lacs Band who works at the tribe’s government center in Onamia, said she can remember as a teenager in the 1970s looking in vain for jobs.

“There were none,” O’Brien said. “Now we have jobs for many, many people. We have homes, we have businesses. We even have a community center.”

Prospects are uncertain for the various gambling bills with less than a month left in the legislative session. Tribal interests and gambling opponents have been successful in recent years in holding back expansion efforts. Gov. Mark Dayton has suggested he might support some type of new gambling, but said Tuesday he was not inclined to back an expansion in bars and restaurants.

“I think alcohol and gambling are a bad combination,” Dayton said.

The racino bill was supposed to be heard Tuesday in a House committee, but that hearing was postponed because the committee chairman and lead sponsor of the bill was sick.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Rich hanson

    The tribes are paying there employes to be at the capital today. Why don’t people of this state see the benefits of a Racino?it is free money that we are not getting now!

    • Kelly

      Are you out of your mind? If you took the time to research what it is that some of these gambling establishments really do with their dollars you wouldn’t even open your mouth. Are you aware that thousands of people are given “free” healthcare and screenings each month? Are you aware that the State of Minnesota’s Trooper’s cars were supplied with AED machines? That my friend was not funded by the state. Are you aware that some of the poorest tribes, Native Americans AND non-native Amercians are given a chance because of our successful gaming enterprises and the choices they make? Would you prefer the State control this? They certainly have done a good job so far managing the state and its monies haven’t they? Please do your research before you come to your conclusions.

      • marjorie

        Who paid for the AED machines? I doubt the Indians did. Better get your information correct.

        • Mitch

          Actually 1 tribe (Mative) did donate and pay for these ..thousands of them and they have saved lives so you need to get your facts straight!

          • Kelly

            Thanks Mitch:)

            • Kate

              They did not pay for all of the AED machines. They donated money as a tax right off. I work for the State and we do know where some of the donated money comes from.

        • Mike

          Yes, they did Marjorie. Better get YOUR information straight.

      • Jim

        Kelly….I agree the tribes do some good for the general public with their casino monies. But Rich has a point…..how do you explain the hundreds of thousands of dollars given to fellow members each month by the Shakopee Mdwakanton (sp?) tribe? Why do I CONSTANLY see 17-18-19 year old Native kids riding around Prior Lake in tricked out Hummers & Escalades, meanwhile, other tribes in the state live in abject poverty and squalor? I’m not positive, but it really seems your successful gaming enterprises really only benefit a select few. In this way….your gaming enterprise is just like any other big business run by the white man.

        And how much sharing is there among tribes? If you guys can’t even share evenly with each other….why should we trust that these gaming establishments are doing great things with the money as you stated? How much money goes to tribe members compared to the money given back to the general public (like the defib example you gave)? My guess….a very, VERY small percentage.

        So why should Native Americans have a monopoly on the MILLIONS of dollars spent of gaming each year? Because the white man took your land hundreds of years ago? Sorry, that doesn’t really hold water with me today.

        • Leo Gunner Baker

          Well take the time to do the research. How many jobs are provided by Native gaming. I know you will say that a casino run by the government provide those same jobs. It will in the metro area. This does nothing for the rural areas. When you provide these additional jobs in the metro area you will affect the local entertainment venues. The entertainment pie is only so big. You can only split entertainment dollars so many ways.

          The tribes do share with each other. I know of several tribes that have received millions of dollars in grants from the wealthy tribes in Minnesota. Each tribe has it’s own resources. Each tribe has to utilize their resources to the best of their ability. Some tribes are better than others at this.

          Tribes do not have a monopoly on gaming. Who runs the lotto games in Minnesota? It is not the tribes. Who runs charitable gaming in Minnesota? Same answer not the tribes. Who runs the horse tracks in Minnesota? Also not the tribes. The card rooms within the horse track are also not run by the tribes. Tribes are doing a horrible job at running a monopoly on gaming. Look up in an economics book what a monopoly is. You will find that you are using the wrong word. Tribes do not have a monopoly. Not even close.

          So why should Native Americans have a monopoly on the MILLIONS of dollars spent of gaming each year? Because the white man took your land hundreds of years ago? Sorry, that doesn’t really hold water with me today. This has to be the best line in your whole statement.

          The money spent within Native run casinos is spent locally. It is paid out in wages. State and Federal taxes are paid by both tribal and non tribal members. There have been many people taken off the welfare roles and put to work within the casinos. Think about how much that would save the state. To take someone from and expense and make them an asset.

          Look up the stats there are more white people living off of welfare in this country than there are Natives living. There was more than just the theft of land. There was also genocide. The systematic destruction of language, culture, and forced moves off of their homelands. Think about it. If I picked you up one day and dropped you off hundred of miles from your home and family and told you to start over.

          I have seen with my own eyes the benefits of Native gaming in rural Minnesota. There are good parts and bad parts. There are no perfect solutions to the budget crisis in the State of Minnesota. The lowering of taxes is not the answer. Look at where it has gotten us. A government needs taxes to run. We all want roads and bridges. Most of us want police and firefighters. These are things we all need and should all share in the cost.

          All of you that scream small government would be the first to say something should be done when you lose your home due to poorly regulated banks. Or be fairly upset if you or your child were to get sick from eating poorly inspected food. When we put business interests before people, which includes the environment we all lose. We need a well regulated system. To hell with the profits. What good are they if all of your consumers are dying?

          Let’s fix the budget with small tax increases. Let’s cut back on some spending. We need that spending to maintain the current conditions of our infrastructure. We need to invest into our schools. Look at the level of our educational system as compared to the rest of the world. We are falling behind.

          Why are we so focused on gay marriage and Native gaming? Who cares about gay marriage? What difference does it really make? There are divorces everyday. The state of Minnesota is 6 billion short on the budget. 6,000,000,000.00 that is a big number. They plan on making up 200 million with a gaming bill. 200,000,000.00 is not even close to the 6 billion. It would mean they are still short 5.8 billion. 5,800,000,000.00 that is a huge shortfall.

          In their attempt to make up that small amount they would put several people out of work. Which means they would have to go on government assistance. Now if the state is going to help those people that means they will be short more than the 5.8 billion cause their expense just went up. So really where do they gain. They lose the revenue from the workers paying taxes in and increase their expenses. Does not seem like the most well thought out plan.

          I have also read where the state would allow outside vendors to run the casinos for the state. I am assuming there will be some sort of fees paid to that vendor. An out of state vendors is not going to spend their profits in the state of Minnesota. They will spend it in their home state.

          This leads us back to some of the tribal members that share in the large profits from the casinos. Think about what happens if you take that money away from them. The hummer dealership is going to lose out on a lot of business. Also the custom body shops will also lose out on that business. These are just a few examples. You seem to have enough hate in your heart to not care about the families of these other businesses. They rely on the casinos indirectly for a portion of their annual profits. Economics is far more complicated than saying I want a casino too. Or they make too much money cause their skin is a different color.

          Insurance has profits in the billions of dollars. They pay as little as possible and give people the run around when it comes time to pay out. Medical insurance is one of the worst offenders. They make money off of people dying. Their profits are ten times the casino profits. Why not have a state run insurance?

          The biggest thing that most of you are missing is the fact that Native gaming does not take place on Minnesota land. The reservation are located within the state, but they are nations within a nation. Minnesota has no more right to complain about Native gaming then they have to complain about gaming in the state of Nevada. Unless you want to tell the residents of Minnesota that they are not allowed to leave the state and gamble. The difference is that when the gamble on the reservations that happen to be within the boundaries of Minnesota the money stays local. When they game in Nevada that money stays out there.

          • Russ

            If the Tribes want to be a separate nations then they should stop taking welfare and other domestic aid since those programs are for citizens of the United States and its territory’s. KEEP YOUR YOUR OPINIONS OUT OF MY GOVERNMENT!!!!!

            • Ashley Lofstrand

              We have to take something! Before it was the United States, this was all land owned by Native Americans. Our people have been forced onto reservations and had to deal with prejudice people like you!! Trying growing up on a reservation like I did and come from culture/history and then maybe…just maybe you would have some heart and understand! This should all be payment to us for what we have had to live with all of these years.

        • Ashley Lofstrand

          Why should Native Americans have profits from gaming each year you ask? hmm maybe because everything else has been taken away from native americans. It’s all of you being the greedy ones. The natives are continually discriminated in work places, so the casino is all many natives have as a job opportunity. Can we keep one thing to ourselves?! We have given up our land, our culture, and our lives to others who don’t care about the future of the native culture. Have some morals and stop worrying so much about what is put into your pocket!

      • helper

        the money tribes spend on “community stuff” is a drop in the bucket to what they take in. A DROP IN THE BUCKET!

    • GN

      Nothing is free. Somebody somewhere pays always.

  • JB

    As an American Indian this offends me. Competition is the only way that a business can grow stronger. Racino is the perfect competitor as it is government run, so we all know it will fail compared to a private enterprise.

    • Alex V

      Um, the Indian casinos are all owned by the tribes, and thus “government run”.

      • TD

        Money from gambling is just another “sin tax”-style bandaid for the state budget. I don’t think we should base our government on a revenue source that can potentially dry up or cause more social problems that it will then want more money to fix. If we do that, why not open some great state-run bars? Not only is the track record of state-sponsored businesses is not great (where is Northwest Airlines now?), but the current casinos are doing a great job at keeping jobs in both the metro and rural Minnesota and contributing to the greater good through major contributions to a wide range of activities and communities.

    • Jim

      Exactly JB. The Racino isnt going to hurt your business…it will only help it. And if it does hurt it…then your business wasnt as strong as you thought and it’s time to adjust.

      This is good business for both sides….period!!

  • LD

    Expanding Gaming is just like another broken TREATY!!!

    • Bob

      Oh give me a break with this broken treaty crap. America: The only country in the world where once a people is conquered those same people can sue the invaders. If it was any other country in this world in any timeline across history, there would have been no treaty and those people would have been assimilated or destroyed.

      • Ashley Lofstrand

        We were destroyed! Trail of Tears ring a bell! Brush up on your history. Our culture and our whole livelihoods have been affected.

  • Rick hanson

    This is pure racism , because I am African American I can’t run a casino.

    • Phil Mcrackin

      Neither can I. I don’t support them so they do not get any of my money.It sucks being white I can’t do anything.

      • Whitey Fjord

        Actually you can. You can get guilted into voting for an inept president.

        • RG

          Too true republicans suck

  • LD

    Here they go again pulling out the racism card This rally has nothing to do with being white or black Its about how the State is breaking another agreement (TREATY) with the Tribes of Minnesota!

    • Jim

      What year are you living in LD….1863. Honestly…who the hell cares about some “treaty” signed a hundred years ago? And why did you guys trust the white man and sign them anyways? They already took your land real sneaky like….it wasn’t smart to trust them to uphold signed treaties!! As a white man….i wouldn’t trust us as far as you could throw us!!!

      • Mike

        RIGHT ON JIM! I don’t care if your family farm has been in the family for 5 generations . . . that was bought and paid for over a hundred years ago. State auction next week. Your family heirlooms – those can go up for auction too. The only heirlooms that most of our native neighbors have is the land beneath their feet – and most of that was stolen away too. Easy for you to say when you are not affected.

      • Ashley Lofstrand

        Thank you! Point proven, we can’t trust the “white man” so why should we trust you with approving this bill!

    • RG

      TREATY what treaty I never heard of the US Government signing a treaty giving The Tribes excursive rights to gambling. Has anybody told Nevada.

  • MrB

    Our government is the biggest racist of anyone. Racism by definition is simply….”treating one group of people different than another based on race” We are either ALL equal or not. That is why we will always have racism in this country!

  • D.J.


    • Mike

      DJ, I look at all the spoiled brats whose parents work in upper management at 3M, Medtronic and Best Buy, and I think, why should a 17 year old be driving a BMW. You’re right – we need to have the State start making Post It notes, medical devices and open stores so we can hoard in on that too! Idiot conservatives scream about government getting involved where they don’t belong, but have no trouble jumping into this. Racist hypocracy!

  • Kally

    I demand a smoke free casino. Think of the health care costs the state and everyone else will have to pick up (higher costs) due to people being subjected to all the second hand smoke in Indian casinos. We need state run smoke-free casinos NOW!

  • Ali

    You are right Kally, Dayton ows the people of Minnesota who want casino action in a safe smoke free place to have one…

  • AF

    I yes to racinos, those of you who think they will fail, then why are you so worked up? we’ll fail right? then it just goes back to you anyway.

  • Brandon

    Not all of these tribal members are spending all their money on worthless things. You are grouping those “kids” together. Yes you see a flashy car and apparently they aren’t doing anything with their lives. I do agree that this is true to a degree but there are also the tribal members who donate a lot of money to help others. I am one of those tribal members and yes I drive a nice car. But I also work 2 jobs and I go to school. You are generalizing and grouping us all together where there are actually people who try to make a name for themselves without bringing the money factor into it. I work upwards of 50 hours a week and attend school 4 days a week. I am a busy person, yet I don’t need to be. I understand that no one cares what I do as a single person but there are many people in these tribes that work hard and try to better themselves, their families and society.

    You need to quit generalizing because it not only offends me but it offends my family members who are hard working men and women of society. The Elders of the tribe are doing the best they can to deal with the degenerating attitudes of our newest generation. However there is still hope for these young kids and there are still a lot more elders in our tribe that give their money to multiple charities and other organizations that need the money more than we do. You are focusing on flashy cars when there are other issues at hand. Your argument should be much stronger if you want people to take you seriously. Even with the flashy cars argument, those kids that are buying them are spending money which means money is being put back into the economic system trying to spur an upturn for the downward looking economy. The Racino Bill will not have that effect. As others said it is a temporary fix for an ongoing problem, a problem that will not go away. Other methods need to be devised if an actual solution has any chance of working.

  • Jfc

    how can they say these bills would create new job when people already hires at bars for pull tabs.racinos wouldn’t need to hire new people because the slot machines pay out with paper any way and I think they have enough people stand around at the cashier booths have you been at the races tracks/poker room. they’re hurting for business. P.S when have you heard about race tracks donating anything to anybody. I know for a fact that the two tribes in Red wing and shakopee make alot of donations. I was at the city of mpls when they donated the AEDs to the city sorry but true

  • Jon


    What you have been saying doesn’t make any sense. You are basically saying any contract we sign is pointless.

    Would you like it if the bank who financed your house said, oh hey, we know you are paying for this, but we decided to make more money we are going to build another house on your property right behind your house.

    To all state gambling supporters-

    I’m a 28 year old white man, my lineage is English and Welsh. The american view of natives was always “they are a savage lesser people and are a problem to our development” I am offended to think that my family could have very well been involved in the oppression of another race. Forcing them to live on “reservations”. If you look at a reservation list and map for the US (google it) you tell me if you would love to live in someplace like… oh Pine Ridge, SD.

    I think the LEAST we can do is honor some of these treaties and agreements that were made (no matter how long ago)

    For everyone who is jealous of “natives driving escalades” did you stop and ask them where they got their wealth? Maybe they are private entrepreneurs? Maybe they are they own a Famous Dave’s Franchise… You don’t know and you just assume it is casino money. (which I am aware it could be casino Per Capita payments) P.S. dont vacation in Miami if you have problems seeing brown folk driving fancy cars.

    State gambling is not a permanent solution to our budget problems, but it will be a permanent problem to tribes around the state and make expansion and further development difficult for them. Not to mention, tourism in places like Redwood Falls, MN and Granite Falls MN would be virtually non-existent if there wasnt a resort casino to draw people to those locations. Tourism creates more jobs than just casino jobs by the way… All the local bars, hotels, restaurants, gas stations etc also see an increase in traffic, which boosts local economy.. which gets paid to the state in taxes.

    Oh and I should probably mention.. I was going to college with a member of the Shakopee Mdewakanton tribe. She doesn’t own an Escalade, but the tribe was paying for her tuition. I suppose thats just another thing to be jealous of? I am happy for her opportunity personally.

  • Jfc

    I work for the of city Mpls . I also work with several native americans they’re from northern MN but they don’t drive nice new car. I ask one if he gets money from his tribe he told me not everyone get money.

    • Ginnaaaaaaa

      you have to belong to a band to get the money.

  • Ginnaaaaaaa

    If I was part of the Indian community I would be angry too!!!!! I would demand my free money and demand that no one get any part of it!!!!! So know Government casinos and certainly no one else shall get a piece of their pocket!

  • kim

    Ok first of all I know someone that works for the casino and if you work for them they have pretty good medical benefits there. You can see a Dr for free just have to pay for your meds if you are put on them. So they do well for there employees as well so you should not judge how they use there money. Also yes the racino will open up jobs , but then the casino may half to cut back maybe and people there could loss there jobs.

  • kim

    Oh by the way this person I mention above is white. that works for the casino and has good benefits.

  • k

    I agree with Jon above, about everything and I am a white person.

  • CJ

    I am a Caucasian 40 someting female that lives in Central Minnesota and I work for a casino. You tell me where I can get a job in this area other than the Casino? I choose to live here to take care of elderly family. Working for the casino allows me to have a decent paying job and live where I want/need to live. If they open state gambling tell me who will benefit from these jobs? City dwellers, predominatly? I am college educated, and I would have to drive hours take time away from my family to have the job I have now if they pass state gaming. Rural Minnesota beware this will not only affect my job at the casino, but if they open Racinos in the city do you think that the major highways to rural Casinos will be as busy? Do you think the gas stations, the grocery stores, the liquor stores, the restaurants will not also feel the affects? Hard times will be across the board… not just us at the casino.

  • John

    If you want to be equal then be equal. This would be a non issue if the tribes would contribute to the state the way the rest of do. We all pay taxes regardless of race. A donation here or there great. I have seen the roads to mystic and treasure island do nothing but grow over the years and who do you think paid for that? Everybody except the tribes. Even people who do not go to the casinos have paid into the roads. Plus there was an article on this very web site this morning about how they may lose funding for their programs for reahbing criminals. Sorry folks you have to feel the 5 billion dallar pinch also. The fact is the racino is supported by over 70% of the voting public and should be an easy decision at the capital. If it is what the majority want then make it so. However the Tribes have spent millions and millions on fighting this issue and it is the only reason it has not already passed. Gov. Pawlenty tride to negotiate a deal with the tribes first and they chose not to talk. He asked the richer tribes to support the outstate tribes and they have not done a good job sharing the wealth with even their own people, let alone the state. Another fact about the racino is that is does not just create job at the tracks but outstate as well on farm and many other ag business that supply feeds etc to farms. Two racinos are not going to hurt the tribal casinos one bit they may even help them as they attract more outstate visitors. It is a win no matter what way you look at it. Now that the tribes are more stable than before I say come back to the table and redo your deal with the state or accept what the state choses to do for the good of the people who elect them to office. Go Racino!

    • Mike

      John – I see you are talking out of the wrong opening. Actually the tribes DO pay for the road upgrades as partners and do so generously. DO SOME RESEARCH!Using “support” numbers about doing the wrong thing is easy when based on lies. I bet if I spent a little money advertising I could get 80% of the public to support feeding you to the lions in the arena to generate the money for a new Vikings stadium and lowering unemployment by 3%.

  • k

    CJ~ I was talking about the casino that they have good benefits there and I know someone there that works there. I was not talking about the racino.

  • MS

    John- How would you know if it would hurt the casino by opening up a racino? I do not think you know like you think you do!

    • john

      I said they would NOT be hurt by the Racinos. Fact is it would draw people to the area. The competition would be good for othe facilities. Why do you think car dealler are all parked next to each other. If any casino would get hurt it would be Mystic Lake (which is like the third richest casino in the nation) just because of the location next to Canterbury. If they did get hurt it would be because of bad business not because of the Racino. Hurt or not I guess your right I may not know either way. However free enterprise is what this country is built on. Monopolies are a bad thing for society and this one needs to come to an end unless the tribes want to step up to the tabe and redo the settlement with the state. Share the wealth with the other tribes stop draining our natural resources and contribute to the well being of our state as a whole. Then I will consider weather or not the racino is a good idea or not. For now build and they will come. Oh Yeah and zero tax dollars as well.

  • Lonnie

    All races should be treated absolutely the same. No discrimination or reverse discrimination period.

    This issue should be a non issue, but while the puppet master politicians get whites and natives fighting, everyone is not focusing on the financial scam they pull on taxpayers.

    All this concern over the budget might be very interesting if someone was to investigate the hidden money states had stuffed away. Several years ago there was an article, for 1 day, in the metro news about the 20 billion the State of Minnesota has in secret accounts. This article was in the news 1 day then never spoke of again! They do not make this information public and that very very few legislators even knew about. Ok news investigators look into this and don’t give up till you find out about this.

  • Bob

    These politician need to be leaders!!!!!bottom line the tribes pay us nothing in taxes!bottom line if they paid taxes I could care less about a Racino!shame on you Indians!

    • TD

      Actually, the tribes do pay taxes.

  • Jfc

    everyone that work at a casino has to pay taxes on their income. tribal members has to pay state and federal taxes (housing auto investment)) how do I know this I was a hr block when a tribal member was doing her taxes when she left the guy told me she has to file like everyone else who new

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