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Minnesota’s tribes have it both ways

Sen. Dick Day
Sen. Dick Day

For more than 10 years I have tried to get the Minnesota Legislature to authorize a racino at Canterbury Park. Democrats have opposed my plan; they believe the Native American monopoly on gambling is justifiable because the billions in casino profits are payback for wrongs we committed in the past. Last year, however, Democrats expanded gambling themselves with a harness track and card room in Anoka County, and this year they voted for a bill to permit simulcasting at the track. That makes me hopeful that my bill will get a better reception than it has in the past.

It is important for Minnesotans to understand why I believe the bargain we have made with the tribes, which guarantees them exclusive rights to operate casinos, does not reflect our strongly felt notion of fairness.

“Domestic dependent nations” is the label that the U.S. Supreme Court has assigned to the relationship of Native American tribes with the U.S. government and the state of Minnesota. “Dependent” is the word that catches my attention. The tribes are dependent on a lot of state services that we all benefit from, but they alone are exempt from paying for those services.

Amenities from taxes
Businesses in Minnesota pay an 8 percent corporate income tax, as well as a statewide property tax. They do so, probably not enthusiastically but at least willingly, to ensure that they receive services that make doing business in our state possible. These include a safe and efficient network of roads to deliver goods and customers; a superior system of K-12 and higher education for a skilled and knowledgeable workforce; clean, abundant, and dependable supplies of water; a reliable supply of electricity; a fair legal and regulatory climate. Taxes paid to state government also support many other amenities that contribute to our superior quality of life, enhance our sense of community, and make us a sought-after place to live and visit.

These are services that the tribal casino businesses also benefit from, free of charge.

The compacts the state of Minnesota signed with the tribes – which do not ask them to share their revenue as do all other states that have tribal gaming – are valid into perpetuity unless both parties agree to renegotiate. That isn’t going to change any time soon. The tribes have no reason to open up the compacts as long as they are profiting so handsomely under the current arrangement.

Twenty states have non-Indian casinos that pay hundreds of millions of dollars into state coffers. Our neighbor to the south, Iowa, gets 6.6 percent of its general-fund budget from its casinos. South Dakota gets 13.2 percent. One state-sponsored casino, a racino at Canterbury Park, would level the playing field and generate $100 million or more every year in payments to the state of Minnesota. It would help us pay our bills, as all our good corporate citizens do, acknowledging their dependent relationship with our state.

Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, first introduced legislation to authorize a casino at Canterbury Park in 1997 to raise money for a Twins stadium. He has introduced similar legislation, for various purposes, every year since without success. This year he proposes to fill part of the budget gap with racino proceeds.

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Comments (5)

  1. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 03/27/2008 - 10:56 am.

    This is filled with execrable half-truths and distortions. Allow me to retort.

  2. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 04/10/2008 - 09:14 am.


    In Senator Dick Day’s March 26 column (“Minnesota’s tribes have it both ways”), he gets so many facts wrong that it’s difficult to know where to begin to set the record straight.

    The term “domestic dependent nation” describes the relationship between Indian tribes and the U.S. government. It does not apply to the relationship between tribes and states. In fact, the framers of the Constitution felt that the greatest threat to federalism was colonial/state relationships with the tribes, so they specifically excluded states from engaging in any relationships with the Tribal sovereigns. Both the Constitution and the Supreme Court specifically recognize this fact. It is only recently that Congress has granted the states some limited authority to engage directly with the tribes, such as in tribal-state compacts.

    Day is also incorrect to suggest generally that the tribes are “dependent” on state services. It is true that historically both the state government and the federal government have provided services to tribal government and to individual tribal members; the federal government is obligated to do so under written agreements in treaties. Gaming on Indian reservations is not a cure-all and there will always be unmet need when you have reservation communities recovering from 200 years of neglect.

    The state is required to provide services because individual tribal members are also citizens of the state and cannot be treated discriminatorily. Federal money used by states to provide services to Tribes and their members come earmarked for that purpose and the state is simply a pass-through for those monies.

    Some but not all tribal governments have been fortunate enough to be able to use their gaming revenues to contribute financially to state and local governments for police and fire protection, road infrastructures and sewer and water needs.

    Day refuses to recognize that tribal governments take their responsibilities as governments seriously, and they have found many ways to partner with state and local governments in providing services to all of our citizens.

    Contrary to Day’s assertion, the vast majority of Indians in Minnesota pay state taxes like everyone else. Only those who both live and work on tribal lands, fewer than 20 percent of all Indians in Minnesota, are exempt from state income tax. All tribal members pay federal income taxes.

    Another major factual error in Day’s commentary involved revenue-sharing. As we have repeatedly informed the Senator, there are at least half a dozen states in which the tribal compacts do not provide for revenue sharing. Federal courts have consistently ruled that states may not force tribes to share their gaming revenues, but this hasn’t stopped states from extorting revenue-sharing payments as part of the compact negotiation process.

    If the Senator wants to talk about “dependence,” he should take a look at the economy of Minnesota, especially rural Minnesota. It isn’t the tribes who depend on the state; it’s the state that depends on the tribes for stable, well-paying jobs that include health care, pension and other benefits.

    In 2005, Indian gaming employed more than 13,000 people, over 9,000 of them in rural areas. Those jobs brought more than $285 million in direct economic benefits to rural Minnesota, including $159 million in take-home pay, $65 million in employment taxes, $48 million in healthcare, $10 million in retirement savings, and $4 million in other employee benefits.

    If the Senator believes a racino at Canterbury Park can produce benefits like that for rural Minnesota, we look forward to hearing him explain how.

  3. Submitted by Richard Heil on 12/23/2009 - 08:38 am.

    This is a copy of a post that I posted on KFAN.COM rube chat politics & government

    racinos/OTB’s Which one is best?


    In response to this last post is my response. Thanks again for your post.

    NOTE: Please check the following rube chat topics in politics & government.

    OTB/Vikings stadium funding parts 1,2,3
    OTB/Vikings stadium funding info & data

    The matter of building a new stadium from my perspective is not about buying a NFL owner a stadium. I am not in favor of building a stadium for any NFL owner but to have the stadium owned and managed as the metrodome is now. It is about keeping and promoting tourism for this area. The Vikings are a tourist draw for the twin cities area. This stadium will pull a number of events that would not be available to this area otherwise. This of course produces revenue in a number of different ways. Jobs, food & beverage sales, hotel rooms, car rentals, taxi/limo service and the list goes on. Businesses will relocate parts or all of their business once they have had a chance to visit and see certain areas after exposure to it because of some event. This area would do well if they could do a better job of showcasing itself. This stadium could be just a small part of a concerted effort to do just that, showcase this area. As I indicated in the above listed posts is the possibility that an Olympic summer games could be held here. A Super Bowl is also for sure a possibility as well. NCAA and other events are very possible on a collegiate level. The amounts of revenue raised can be many, many times the costs of this stadium. You may ask, why not keep the metrodome? Unfortunately the dome is a bit too small and it is a power hog. The energy that it takes to keep that roof up is very high and without many, many tenants the dome is just too expensive. It is more suited to a mid sized city that has a university and/or a number of colleges that can share it. Once the shovel was put into the ground for either the new Twins stadium or the new Gophers stadium the metrodome was doomed as economically feasible. Why a retractable roof? Because this roof will ensure that whatever party books an event at the stadium that the event can take place rain or shine or snow or whatever. To an event planner this is an extremely important detail. I can go on and on with this but again I will encourage you to check out those other posts.
    A second point was made about the matter of the Native Americans and I will answer this in some but not complete detail here.
    I wrote a report about bringing some sense to gambling and submitted it to select members of the legislature and governor Tim Pawlenty these last two legislative sessions. In that report I pointed out a few problems with the Native Americans and tribal gambling/gaming and also the problems with the racetracks and the Minnesota Racing Commission which is is an abusive and corrupt state agency. As I will state here that there is not only problems with the Native Americans but also state side gambling/gaming. For the purposes of answering your question regarding the Native Americans I will just focus on them right now.
    The Native Americans have a number of issues regarding the sovereignty of reservations that do need to be addressed.

    * the matter of civil lawsuits with the casinos and/or tribes

    * the matter of adherence to the National labor relations act ( laws concerning the rights of workers to collective bargain )

    * advertising promotions and actually giving away all of those promotions that are advertised

    * maintaining fair odds and fair standards for payouts at the casinos

    There is some other issues but this sums up the most of what are these issues. Notice that I do not bring up just how much money the casinos earn or anything about getting money from the state from casinos profits. I personally do not think it is viable to make demands from the Native Americans over these two issues.
    I did contact one of the main people concerning Native American gambling and Canterbury Park and in the absence of any other worker advocate I made the following proposal with these three included concessions for gambling workers.

    * that there be a worker advocates

    * that there be some kind of health care coverage for most workers

    * that there be 1% profit sharing from the net profit revenue split for all workers

    The proposals were never acted upon and as of now these concessions have not been adopted. There is some benefits for some workers in various ways but no form of profit sharing.

    continued on next reply

  4. Submitted by Richard Heil on 12/23/2009 - 08:41 am.

    continued from last post

    Now outside of the problems with the racetracks and the Minnesota Racing Commission I also have as part of the report this information and suggestion for the Native Americans/tribes. Now there is many problems with the Native Americans with things like alcoholism, suicides, unemployment and a lack of opportunities regarding members of the Native American tribes. There is considerable dependency on the state of Minnesota/federal government by many Native Americans. The Native Americans do have gambling/gaming but little other opportunities. It is somewhat like a table with only one leg. I advocated that the Native Americans use some of their gambling profits to build more economic opportunities in conjunction with the state to alleviate some of this considerable dependency.
    This could save the state millions and help the Native Americans to build a sub-economy that would be like building more legs for their table. My personal view is that the Native Americans have a short window of time in order to use gambling profits to build industries that can help them for the long haul.
    The state would be more than willing to help with this and the Native Americans do have advantages due to the sovereignty that they have on reservations that they could take advantage of. I admit that the Native American did and are doing some good projects but I believe that working with the state is essential. I don’t think we as a state can ask for money but we can demand as part of the Native Americans maintaining their slot/casino monopoly that the Native Americans make these investments in themselves. Instead we see some of the Native Americans using their profits for things like the TCF stadium ( 12 million ) , toys for tots ( $ 50,000 ) and a number of similar contributions. I suggested that these random contributions be ceased and that all contributions be used in a way that has some definite goals that can relieve some dependency on the state. So far the Native Americans have refused to negotiate in good faith with the state over gambling/gaming profits. The main problem is that the state lacks leverage in its dealing with the Native Americans.
    I feel that the racino is a very bad idea. It would maroon any chance that we can get the Native Americans to do these kinds of contributions/investments. It runs right at their monopoly. Instead I am advocating that we put OTB ( off track betting on horse racing ) back on the ballot for 2010. OTB does not run at the Native American monopoly. It can be used to build up the agribusiness in horse racing that is so weak in our state. I do suggest that these OTB’s be allowed to offer simulcast horse racing and also the poker card clubs like they currently have at the two racetracks. These OTB’s can be anywhere the state decides to license them. Using OTB/poker card clubs as a lever the state can then get the Native Americans to the table for some serious negotiations. Getting the right to license OTB does not mean that these licenses will be issued but they could be. This depends on where negotiations with the Native Americans go.

    continued on next post

  5. Submitted by Richard Heil on 12/23/2009 - 08:43 am.

    continued from above post

    My view is that we can make money off of slot/casino gambling via a racino or we can save money by
    encouraging investments that alleviate dependency on our state. I think we are better off by getting the Native Americans to contribute from 18 casinos rather than getting profits from two racinos that are surrounded by a number of casinos. In addition to getting Native Americans to help themselves we can as well get some revenue from OTB’s that we can use for a stadium. If the Native Americans still refuse to good faith negotiate then the state could turn OTB’s into racinos and then use a considerable amount of that revenue to alleviate this dependency. The Native Americans can do it or the state can then effectively take that monopoly away and do this themselves as a last resort. The state can win and the Native Americans can win as well. The racino will produce no winners except for the owners/stockholders of the two racetracks. Ultimately the state and its peoples will lose if we adopt the racino plan. A serious debate needs to be conducted in regards to this matter. We should not allow influences to derail this debate like we see now. Racino influences have everybody in the media under their thumb so this debate is not taking place but I am for certain willing to have this debate with anyone/anywhere ( provided that transportation is available to get me to set location ).
    Lives can be changed if we build up our tourism, get the Native Americans to invest properly and bring some sense to gambling/gaming in our state. Random actions that are not in conjunction with other related actions do little good and if fact great damage. I have advocated that people come forth and offer their opinions on this and certainly it is greater than that of just building some structure but instead structuring some path that can benefit everyone.

    Thanks again

    Richard Heil
    sometimes called cabbie

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