Tribal group says Pawlenty inflated casino numbers
By Brian Bakst
ST. PAUL -- A group representing American Indian bands that run casinos in Minnesota accused Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Tuesday of distorting gambling revenues to increase pressure on them to share profits with the state.
The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association allegations stem from a report issued by Pawlenty's administration last month and the governor's public mentions to it since. Authors estimate that as much as $10 billion is wagered each year, contributing to casino profits of about $1.4 billion.
The group says Pawlenty has repeatedly referred to the tribal gaming as a $10 billion industry, without clarifying that the figure isn't adjusted for prize payouts and operating expenses.
"We find it very disturbing that the governor is trying to sell his 'squeeze-the-Indians' agenda by promoting misinformation and making the tribal gaming pot look much larger than it really is," said John McCarthy, MIGA's executive director.
Pawlenty responded that the numbers are based on the information available. The tribes give audits on a confidential basis to the Department of Public Safety, which enforces gambling regulations. Some audit information has been made public, but not until several years have passed.
"If they'd like to open their books and make their financial information available we'd certainly be willing to take a look," Pawlenty said.