Minn. Senate Committee Kills Racetrack Casino Plan

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) —A state Senate committee on Monday voted down legislation to permit casino-style games at Minnesota horse-racing tracks, the latest in a long line of setbacks at the Capitol for the track owners and horse breeders who have pushed the plan for well more than a decade.

The Senate State Government Committee’s 8-5 vote against the “racino” proposal united Republicans and Democrats in opposition. Racino backers estimate that adding about 2,000 slot machine-style games to two Twin Cities-area tracks would generate up to $130 million in new tax revenue for the state and revive a moribund horse racing industry in the state.

But the proposal has long met opposition from both opponents of expanded gambling and from Minnesota Indian tribes and their political allies who see unwanted competition to existing tribal casinos. The two racetracks seeking the gambling opportunity are Canterbury Park, in Shakopee, and Running Aces Harness Park, in Columbus. Both already operate card clubs and have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying for the expansion.

“Racino will live on,” said Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, the sponsor of the bill that failed. He called the proposal “part of the Capitol fabric. I don’t think it will ever be dead.”

Indeed, racino lobbyist Dick Day — a former Senate Republican leader — said after the vote that he and allies were already working on a new iteration of the proposal. The full Minnesota House actually passed a racino bill in 2004, but it died in the Senate; a version has never made it to the governor’s desk.

“I get a little bitter, because it keeps going this way. But we have another plan in the works,” Day said.

The latest plan had called for directing the new tax revenue toward merit-based college scholarships, modeled on Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship program. But that was only the latest in a long string of potential recipients for racino money; the projects backers have floated racino cash as a way to pay for everything from local economic development projects, to accelerating repayment of delayed state aid payments to public schools, to a source of public financing for construction of a new Minnesota Vikings stadium.

Several members of the State Government Committee said there was a lot to like about the scholarship proposal, but that they didn’t want more gambling to accomplish it.

“I cannot support the expansion of gambling to educate our kids,” said Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis.

The tax money that would be raised by authorizing the racinos had been viewed as a potential source of public funds for to build a new Vikings stadium; Senjem said late last week he was open to considering that approach.

The stadium proposal, to build a new venue in downtown Minneapolis at a cost of $975 million, has similarly struggled this session. Gov. Mark Dayton met Monday with several members of the Minneapolis City Council who are cool to the proposal, hoping to win their support.

Dayton has been lukewarm to using racino money to help fund a Vikings stadium, saying he believes it would get tied up in lawsuits by Indian tribes in a way that could delay stadium construction.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Notimeforyou

    Here’s a thought for those USELESS politicians running our govt…you don’t want to use the easy way (Racino) to pay back education fine but don’t come looking to to me for more money because I’m tired of paying for your ineptness……….pay for it YOURSELF !!!

  • Don

    How about toll booths going into the casinos.

  • terry

    Sorry, no toll Booths, Indians would pay off politians once again!!!!!!!!!
    You know we can’t hurt the “Poor indians” business they pay way too many taxes already?

  • leonard hoppe

    if the indian tribes are citizensof the state than the other citizens have the right to have casinos also as our constituion grants all citizens equal rights. if they arent citizens tell them to stay on their reservation and quit brtbtngour officials

  • AJ

    Racino was not an answer to anything. It was a band aid at the very best. Who is kidding who here? Gambling is an addictive vice. We can and should do better.

  • me

    Putting state owned casinos by the Mall of America and one downtown could add alot of revenue to our state financial problems but apparently the politicians are getting paid off. They’re always trying to figure out how to balance the budget and get more revenue but won’t listen to what many people are trying to tell them. Open state owned casinos, let the revenue go to where it needs to go. The Mystic Lake members are rich and don’t need any more wealth.

    • AJ

      Sure many people are telling them that but they aren’t the majority. Thank god in this case the politicians are listening to their constituents. You clearly don’t get the concept of majority rules. I know that because of your God like proclamation that Mystic Lake Members are “rich and don’t need more wealth”. Who died and made you King? That’s right no one did. That’s because you’re in the minority.

      • Real Cheers

        According to you 8 to 5 vote speaks for 5 million citizens. Pocket greasing rules politics no matter what the vote. Lets just hope the same thing that happened at Foxwoods happens around this state, they cut all payments in 2010, and many now work at the casino. Could you work a job AJ if you had to?

  • Jerry Seinfeld

    Ah, that’s a shame.

  • Gina

    I bet if California was voting on this and passed , Minnesota would approve the same, Minnesota is such a California Copy Cat state……………

    • Ollie

      It wouldn’t pass in California: They are crazy, not stupid.

      Weren’t their last stadiums privately funded?

  • Paul Solinger

    Until ‘CCO fixes their posting procedures to require Facebook, there will always be racist a-holes posting their anonymous garbage that they don’t have the guts to say to anyone’s face.

    • John Doe

      When you vote, you use a secret ballot so it is anonymous. What’s wrong with anonymous postings?

  • Joe Stoeger

    You voted for them….Stop crying… Next time vote with your head….

  • OPM

    We are told by the legislators that the Racino would be an expansion of gambling.
    That it is an addictive vice and will only make the gambling problem worse.
    Yet they want to put electronic pulltabs in every retail outlet, but that isn’t an expansion of gambling?

    • reginald

      You’re absolutely right. I luf, luf, luf it :-)

      Well educated people, people who work with addition, and, for that matter, people who work in the gaming industry are all well aware that gaming can be as serious an addiction as cocaine, alcohol, tobacco, etc.

      Gaming is a terrible source of revenue, not only because of the source of funds (usually from people who can least afford it), but also because it can be very erratic, i.e. it’s not a dependable, regular revenue stream.

      In their collective and infinite wisdom, many of our legislators are willing to look the other way on pulltabs because that is the current proposal to fund Zygi’s temple of greed and many of our “influential leaders” see a way for personal gain from said temple of greed. So, as long as it’s isn’t their nickel paying for it, they’re happy to support gaming – or anything else that they can use to keep their own checkbooks closed while sticking John and Jane Public with the tab.

  • rentacop

    The Indian tribes in Minnesota have such a strangle hold on gambling that you will NEVER see an expansion of gambling unless it benefits them. You can thank previous legislators for the open ended never ending pact with the Minnesota tribes.

  • Moe

    Proposed Solutions:
    -Play in the dome
    -Play at TCF stadium
    -Build your own stadium

    The overwhelming majority do not want public money used to increase the profits of a billionaire sports team owner. Why is that so hard to understand?

  • Tom

    I am not surprises the Indian Casino’s are againest it as any type of competition is unacceptable to them.

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