Former State Sen. Dick Day, who left the Legislature to lobby for expanded gambling at horse tracks, ventured into southern Minnesota this week to lobby folks in New Ulm and Mankato for support of racino slot machines.
He told them that the odds are even for passage of a bill, according to the Mankato Free Press:
“We’re still probably 50-50,” he said, citing the power of Indian casino lobbyists and political contributions. “But we’re moving the ball ahead as far as legislators starting to agree with us. The state’s looking for money. Here it is.”
Day, based on a study by the Minnesota Lottery, is projecting $125 million a year in revenue for the state from putting more than a thousand slot machines at Shakopee’s Canterbury Park and Running Aces Harness Park, which is just off of Interstate 35 near Forest Lake.
And citing the success of the Clean Water Legacy Act — approved by voters in 2008 — Day explained a shift in strategy: make lots of groups and issues the recipients of the expanded gambling funds, the paper said:
Although Day isn’t trying to put the racino idea on a statewide ballot, he decided it might be smart to try to duplicate that broad list of recipients when selling the legislation to lawmakers.
“Instead of saying we’re going to put it over in the general fund, let’s talk about where it would go,” he said.
The legislation creates a Jobs, Family and Economic Development Fund where the gambling revenue would be deposited. Under revenue projections, about $25 million a year would be available for each of five areas:
— Agriculture and rural development, including livestock and biofuel development grants and business/job development.
— Early childhood and family education.
— Bioscience and medical technology research and development of related businesses.
— General fund expenditures.
— Athletic, recreational and extracurricular facilities.
Day dismissed concerns about expanding gambling in the state and took a shot at Indian groups opposing his plan, the paper said:
He argues that it isn’t a particularly dramatic expansion of gambling to allow slot machines at two racetracks where gambling on horse races and cards is already permitted — particularly since there are already 18 Indian casinos in the state that can freely expand at any time.
As for taking revenue now going to the Indian casinos, Day expects only Mystic Lake — which he said has the largest number of slot machines of any casino in America — will potentially feel a significant impact due to its proximity to Canterbury.
“A little competition would do them good,” Day said.