Reporting Pat Kessler
ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Minnesota’s 18 Indian casinos employ more than 20,000 people, making it one of the largest industries in the state. But casino operators say expanding non-Indian gaming to help pay for a Minnesota Vikings stadium means casino job cuts of 30 percent.
“7,000 people could lose their jobs over this,” said John McCarthy, the head of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association.
McCarthy says competition from slot machines at horse racing tracks will force casinos to cut workers.
“I think that they have discounted the fact that because it is tribal gaming, they’re not real jobs, but they are real jobs. Just ask the people who work there,” he said.
Lawmakers are debating whether gambling could help pay for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium.
Indian casinos don’t generate tax revenue, but Racino supporters say racetrack slots would, and revive Minnesota’s horse industry.
“Feed, vet work, you name it. It’s money and it’s a lot of money,” said Jeff Hilger, the head of the Equine Development Coalition of Minnesota. “Just that alone at the track would generate millions and millions of dollars to the state.”
Indian casinos are Minnesota’s sixth largest employer. That’s just behind Allina and just ahead of Wal-Mart.
They are the kind of jobs McCarthy says are very hard to get.
“If this was the 3M or Delta Airlines, don’t you think someone would say, ‘Hey, we better take a closer look and see what kind of impact it’s going to have on the existing industry,’” he said.
Most casino employees live outside the Twin Cities, get health care, and 75 percent of casino workers are non-Indian.
In rural counties struggling with a bad economy, layoffs could be devastating.
However, Ron Rosenbaum, spokesman for Canterbury Park’s Racino effort, says allowing slot machines at Minnesota racetracks could create more jobs.
Here’s Rosenbaum’s statement in full:
“As the number of casinos have grown over the past twenty years, the number of jobs in the hospitality industry have grown exponentially as well. With two new Racinos that will continue with the added benefit that increased purses will bring to the agricultural industry. But don’t take our word, look to Pennsylvania where Racinos have created thousands of new jobs.”