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Rolling the dice on Tuesday: It's Gambling Day at the Capitol

Gambling is going to take center stage Tuesday at the Capitol.

The first hearing on racinos at Canterbury Park in Shakopee and Running Aces in Columbus is set for 12:30 p.m. in the House Jobs and Economic Development Finance Committee. This bill would send much of the money from slot machines at the two race tracks to a jobs creation fund.

That racino blastoff will be accompanied by other gaming activities at the Capitol.

Proponents of allowing electronic pull tabs in the state's bars are scheduled to conduct a news conference promoting their efforts.

Among their proponents are Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, Rep. Ron Shimanski, R-Silver Lake, and Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia.

They're claiming their proposal will produce as much as $230 million in charitable donations as well as an estimated $630 million in new state revenue annually.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association has a rally planned for the Capitol steps Tuesday at 1 p.m. "designed to highlight the fears of thousands of tribal employees who could lose their jobs if the Legislature adopts any of the gambling expansion proposals now on the table."

The Vikings stadium bill is soon to get its first hearing, too — none was scheduled yet this morning — and some stadium proponents want to link gaming revenues to the football team's efforts to get a stadium, even though Gov. Mark Dayton has opposed such a linkage.

In a conference call with journalists this morning, DFL House leader Paul Thissen and DFL Senate leader Tom Bakk were cool to the racino idea and especially toward using its proceeds for some sort of jobs program.

Bakk said he's reluctant to expand gambling, but, if there is a racino, its monies should go to early childhood education funding. "I'd like to put that on the table," Bakk said.

Dayton has talked about using racino dollars for education funding.

Thissen said using racino funds for job creation might negatively affect Indian casinos, reducing jobs at those venues.

"Native Ameican casinos around the state are actually among the strongest pieces of job creation — and really good jobs that pay for health care — in many parts of the state that have the least economic development,” Thissen said. “When we’re talking about jobs, that’s really what we need to take into consideration. Are we just moving jobs from one place to another, and where might those jobs be?”

Bakk is concerned that issues like racino will distract the Legislature, especially the Republican majorities, from working on an overall budget solution.

He said because the racino proposal would create a dedicated jobs creation fund, it “ has nothing to do with balancing the budget … The work that's left with less than a month remaining is to resolve this budget problem. If they don’t work on the budget every single day, they are not going to be done on the 23rd of May.”

Bakk added: “I'm very disappointed that we’re going to get distracted on social issues and things like gaming.”

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