Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, arrived at the Capitol this morning, still pushing racinos as a partial answer to the state’s financial problems.
“I’ve got $200 million, if they want to take it,” Senjem said as he walked into the building this morning.
In his view, the state’s revenue from allowing slot machines into the race tracks at Cantertbury Park and Running Aces, would help lower the amount being shifted from K-12 education. The education shift appears to be equally distasteful to conservatives and liberals.
Still, Senjem said, he’s got one problem.
“I don’t have enough votes in my caucus alone; I need DFLers,” the former Senate minority leader said.
But more and more people seem to be thinking that if a racino isn’t brought into play now, it’s prospects are brighter still in the fall when it’s expected that Gov. Mark Dayton will call a special session to deal with a stadium for the Vikings.
Racinos, its supporters say, could fund the state’s portion of the stadium – and still have money left over to help pay down the K-12 shift.
“We are the redheaded nephew living in the attic,” said John Derus, who is among the lobbyists trying to find support for racinos. “People want to talk to us, but they don’t want to be seen with us. But everyone knows, we hold the keys to the kingdom.”
Of course, racino revenues could not be considered stable.
Racino supporters claim the state could expect more than $200 million per biennium. Additionally, it’s expected operators of the two tracks would be willing to put up substantial up-front money to get the machines they say would help save the horse racing industry in the state.
Dayton hasn’t opposed racinos, but doesn’t think the money could be “booked” now, because he believes there will be court cases – presumably suits filed on behalf of the tribes – that will have to be resolved before any money would show up in state coffers.
The racino crowd was buoyed over the weekend by comments made by Rep. Michael Beard, R-Shakopee, to the Shakopee Valley News.
“Several of us [in the Republican House caucus] threw down the challenge to leaders that either the racino is part of the deal or we’re not going to vote for a deal,” Beard was quoted as saying. “Now they’re struggling with that in negotiations.”
Derus admits that the racino plan faced problems it always has faced.
The Republican platform opposes any expansion of gambling, and DFLers have been grateful for the financial support they have received from American Indian gaming interests.
“But they’ve run out of places to turn for money,” said Derus. “We’ve got more and more people ready to support it.”
Senjem said this morning that because racinos have been in play at the Capitol for so long, they could move quickly through legislative processes.
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.