Leecy: Pro-racino ads promise more than racino can deliver

A costly pro-racino ad campaign funded by Running Aces Harness Track is promising much more than two racinos actually could deliver for Minnesota, according to Chairman Kevin Leecy of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa in Northern Minnesota.

Leecy, speaking for the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, was responding to comments made by Running Aces spokesman John Derus recently on Fox9 News. In that broadcast, Derus debated the racino proposal with Senator Dave Thompson, an opponent of gambling expansion.

“Racino advocates speak as if racinos can solve the state’s budget crisis,” Leecy said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Even if their revenue projections were accurate, the racinos wouldn’t even cover one-half of one-percent of the state’s budget. That’s not even a drop in the bucket, it’s a drop in the ocean.”

Leecy said the job creation claims of racino proponents are misleading and disingenuous. “If we create one job in the Twin Cities, and it costs two jobs in rural Minnesota, that’s no net gain for the state,” he said. “These rural gaming jobs are irreplaceable; what other employer is going to move to Tower or Virginia to create hundreds of good-paying jobs with full health and retirement benefits?”

The tribal job losses will be in tribal government as well as gaming operations, Leecy said. “We take a double hit when we lose revenues,” he noted. “We are not only forced to cut jobs, but also to cut government programs that serve children and families.”

Leecy said that claims about the benefits of the racino to Minnesota’s agriculture economy have been greatly exaggeration. Fewer than two percent of Minnesota horses ever set foot on a racetrack, he noted, so the benefits of higher purses will be enjoyed by a small fraction of the state’s horse owners.

“You don’t hear much about it, but the biggest gainers from the racinos will be the shareholders of Canterbury Park and Running Aces,” Leecy said. “A handful of investors will get the lion’s share of the profits–and most of them don’t even live in Minnesota.”

The fact that Running Aces is spending money to run print and radio ads shows that they fear the racino has been taken off the table in state budget negotiations.

“Most people have figured out that these racino promises have been greatly over-sold and under-documented,” Leedy said. “Hopefully, Governor Dayton and legislative leadership will see past the smoke and mirrors, and base their budget solutions on reality.”

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Andy Platto