With the state facing a possible $6.2 billion budget shortfall and the governor and lawmakers scrambling to find spending cuts and new revenue to correct the mess, several groups are promoting new gambling proposals as a way to plug the gap.
Separate groups are developing two proposals:
A racino gambling plan wants to allow slot machines at Canterbury Park in Shakopee and Running Aces Harness Park in Columbus. Proponents say it will help Minnesota’s horse industry and outstate Minnesota, and provide up to $125 million a year in new state revenue to be applied to whatever legislators decide.
Bar and restaurant owners want the ability to have slot machines in their establishments. Hospitality groups say it has been hard for these community small businesses to compete with Native American-operated casinos. They also say they have lost business because of the smoking ban in bars and restaurants.
There also are other possible proposals for expanding gambling to help solve the state’s budget problems:
Creating a state-run casino in downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul to directly compete with the 18 tribal-run casinos.
Crafting a possible agreement with several of the state’s major tribes to create a casino in a joint venture.
We suggest a couple guidelines for lawmakers and residents to keep in mind when these proposals emerge during the current legislative session.
First, any new gambling initiatives need to be fair to all the players. If a racino gambling proposal is passed, how fair will it be to bar and restaurant owners or any other organization that may benefit from having slot machines? Shopping malls, anyone?
Second, if a racino or downtown Minneapolis casino plan is approved, how fair is that to outstate Minnesota when it comes to jobs, revenue and possible spinoff development?
It looks like the gambling proposals may get a very serious look this session.
We just ask that everyone keep fairness in mind when making those decisions.