It's time for state to share in gambling revenue
When the 2011 Legislature convenes, the new governor and state legislators will face the mighty task of creating jobs, improving the economy and fixing an anticipated $6 billion budget deficit. Passing racino legislation is one part of the solution for our state’s job and revenue crises.
If a racino bill is passed this year, thousands of new, high-quality jobs will be created without raising taxes. Racinos at Canterbury Park and Running Aces Harness Park will put hundreds of currently unemployed construction workers back to work as the two facilities invest to accommodate slot machines. Following construction, the racinos will provide thousands of new, permanent jobs as both racetracks hire new employees to operate and oversee their new gaming operations.
In addition, racinos will help create and preserve jobs in rural Minnesota. Unfortunately, many of these jobs are leaving the state as people who breed, train and own horses are leaving Minnesota for states such as Iowa and Oklahoma. These states, in addition to 10 others, have seen their agricultural industries thrive upon the approval of racino legislation. Adding racinos will keep these jobs, and many other agricultural jobs (grain farmers, farriers, veterinarians, etc.) here where they belong.
If the Legislature passes a racino bill, Minnesota will also receive $250 million every budget cycle in tax revenue. The hundreds of millions the state can make from racinos is real money when we need it most. This new revenue could be spent on programs like education, rural economic development, health care or a new Vikings stadium. All of these projects would create even more new jobs in the state of Minnesota.
According to numerous studies conducted by the Minnesota State Lottery, more than 80 percent of Minnesotans gamble in a given year. We spent $1.1 billion on charitable gambling in 2008. We amended our Constitution in 1982 to allow pari-mutuel betting. We further amended the Constitution to authorize a state lottery in 1988 and we spent a record $481 million on lottery tickets last year. In addition, Minnesota has 18 tribal casinos and, at present, the state doesn’t collect any direct gaming or corporate taxes from gambling profits those casinos generate.
More than two decades ago, the state negotiated a compact that provided for untaxed gaming in perpetuity for Minnesota’s Native American tribes.
Contrary to what many Minnesotans think, that compact in no way guarantees a gaming monopoly for the tribes. I’m not advocating reopening the deal — what’s done is done — but it’s long past time to let Minnesotans get a share of the huge pot of untaxed gambling dollars. After all, Minnesotans are the ones who are primarily responsible for generating that gambling revenue in the first place.
Around the country, racinos are a proven source of jobs and revenue to their state and local governments. Twelve states have already authorized racino legislation. In 2009, these states employed more than 29,000 people and paid morethan $2.6 billion in gaming taxes to state and local governments. Six of the twelve states that have already authorized racino legislation successfully co-exist with tribal casinos.
Minnesotans have long embraced the qualities of fairness and equality. Perhaps that explains why poll after poll has shown more than 70 percent of Minnesotans support racino legislation.
It’s time for the Legislature to listen to the people and to quit playing politics as usual. Pass racino legislation and let’s start putting Minnesotans back to work — without raising their taxes!