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The proposal failed on an 8-5 vote in the Senate State Government Innovations and Veterans Committee on Monday after adopting multiple amendments.

Senate committee kills racino bill

Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

Despite making multiple changes to a bill to install slots in Minnesota’s racetracks, lawmakers rejected a so-called racino bill in its first legislative hearing of the 2012 session.

The proposal failed on an 8-5 vote in the Senate State Government Innovations and Veterans Committee on Monday. In arguing for the bill, Senate Majority Leader and chief  sponsor Dave Senjem said new racinos would bring $130 million in state revenues annually. That money could be used to help pay back more than $2 billion owed to the state’s schools, he argued.

But the bill was subject to several GOP amendments, including one from Sen. Julianne Ortman to reroute the state’s cut of the revenues to college scholarships. The amendment would instead direct $3,000 a year to help public college students play for classes if they earn a 3.0 GPA or better.

Republican Sen. Dave Thompson, who is opposed to expanded gambling, also moved to amend the bill to require a countywide vote to approve the new racinos prior to their construction, saying it adds “additional layer of decision-making.”

Both amendments passed before the bill was voted down. The bill is unlikely to make it through the full Legislature this session, but Senjem sounded optimistic after the committee hearing, saying racino will be back next year if it can’t pass before lawmakers adjourn this session.

One comment

  1. I attended the hearing yesterday and was disappointed to note that the REAL need for a racino was not mentioned here: to support the horse farming and racing industry in our state. I was also disturbed to see a senator, who had the candor to admit to not fully understanding the racino bill and its implication, vote “no” instead of abstaining. It is not good government to play fast and loose with other people’s livelihoods. No one who voted “no” to the bill seemed overly concerned about the fact that our racetracks, world-class facilities and revenue-generating for more than 25 years now, will be gone in two to three years.

    Equally troubling were the arguments that education should not be funded by gambling, which is like saying education (nor any other important cause) should not be funded by alcohol sales taxes, since we know how addictive and dangerous drinking is. If a scholarship funded by a racino had been available when I was in college, I would have gladly taken it, avoided crippling debt, and not cared a whit where the money came from. I would bet any other worthy college student today would feel the same.

    Apart from the tired lies we’ve been hearing for years, the anti-racino lobby kept referring to “predatory gambling,” which I assumed included myself as a predator, since I do wager on horse races. I also have a Ph.D. in psychology, have practiced for 31 years and held two professorships in psychology doctoral programs, etc. But it is bad legislation that is based on personal experience only, such as the gripping but irrelevant story of the gentleman who was an addict and has recovered, or my own story of love of horses and racing since childhood, also irrelevant. Good legislation serves the broader public interest, is economically sound and productive policy, and supports a major Minnesota industry that reaches more lives than is commonly known. (E.g., the 4-H organizations, equine therapy practice, vet internships, charities who receive grants from Canterbury Park – apart from the jobs and careers in horse farming, breeding, feeding, racing, etc.)

    I would have liked to ask the anti-racino folks why they think a racino would cost the tribal casinos so many jobs. I’ve heard this worry for years but never had an answer, and still don’t have one. Are Duluth people going to come all the way to Shakopee to play slot machines? But even if there is a decline, which might well happen even without a racino, there are far more jobs opening from development of a racino than will be lost at existing casinos. And I don’t understand why, if this is such a terrible problem, the state doesn’t do something about “predatory gambling” at those casinos – are we not all equally deserving of protection by the state? (Tongue firmly in cheek here.)

    C’mon, Senators who voted “no.” Take a Saturday afternoon in June or a lively Thursday evening and come out to the track. Come soon, because it will be gone in a few years.

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