Shakopee Sioux Community speaks out on racino claims

The staff counsel for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) has spoken out in response to a recent racino story that appeared in several southern Minnesota newspapers. Here is William J. Hardacker’s commentary:

With coverage of the racino issue in local papers it is officially confirmed that the annual racino sales pitch is in full swing. Perhaps, it should be called what it is, a sales scam. At least, three-fourths of the “correspondent’s” reporting in one article which ran in several local papers directly supports the racino proposal.

The author quotes five people who support putting slot machines at Canterbury. How many people are quoted offering any number of reasonable arguments opposing racino? Yes, readers, you guessed it: zero. One must ask whether the paper’s editor was drowsy when the story got filed. These newspapers might as well turn the editor’s job over to Canterbury’s public relations firm.

Stories about the racino are full of the same misleading messages used for many years now by the Canterbury shill machine. No one is contradicting their account of the issue. There are two sides to every story, a fact which is overlooked when it comes to the racino or any expansion of gambling in Minnesota.

First, the addition of slot machines at Canterbury is a qualitative expansion of gambling. It would dramatically alter the make-up of who provides what types of games. Simply ask the question: how would Canterbury feel if the SMSC commenced operations of numerous poker rooms and pari-mutuel horse racing at Mystic Lake Casino?

Second, the tribal governments do not have a “monopoly” on gaming in Minnesota. The gaming market is already divided in a way that brings revenue to the various operators. Canterbury has horse racing and a multitude of card games. The state government operates a diverse array of lottery games. Charities and bars sell pull tabs and can offer poker. Bingo halls are easy to locate throughout the state. And the tribal governments operate video slots and blackjack pursuant to the tribal-state compacts. There are plenty of gambling options in Minnesota today. No one has a monopoly on gaming.

Third, the approval of slot machines for the horse racing tracks will kill jobs. The gaming market in Minnesota is over 20 years in the making and is a mature market. There are very few, if any, new gamblers in Minnesota waiting to spend money only if there are slots at Canterbury. The expansion of gambling will not increase gambling revenues statewide, it will only siphon revenues from the tribal governments, the lottery, and charities. For every job created at a racino, there will be at least four or five jobs killed at a tribal facility.

Fourth, racino proponents ignore the fact that projected revenues of $125 million will barely impact the overall state government deficit of nearly $6 billion. Also, projections of racino revenues do not take into account the cost of appropriate and effective regulation of those operations and do not take into account the likely competitive response from the tribal governments and the state lottery. It may cost a lot more for Canterbury to hit its projections.

Stories also include inaccurate information. One figure often reported as fact is that the tribal governments in Minnesota net about $1.4 billion annually from gaming. This number is alleged by Racino Now’s Dick Day; it is not based in fact and is conveniently overblown. Also, there are presently 23 lobbyists working for the expansion of gambling which do not include the lobbyists for the Minnesota Vikings who support a gambling proposal if the revenues from it are used to pay for a new stadium.

Finally, [reporter] Adams provides no opposing view on the suggested benefits to the horse racing industry. The equine industry might have a positive economic impact in Minnesota but horse racing is a fraction of the entire equine industry. And Minnesotans might remember that card club revenues were supposed to save the horse racing industry in Minnesota. If card club revenue was not enough to save horse racing, why would anyone believe that slots revenues will save it? Nationwide attendance at horse tracks is down as are monies wagered even at tracks with casino games added. And if a failed business model like horse racing can get bailed out by slot machines, why would the legislature stop there? The pressure will be on to authorize slot machines throughout the state. And then Minnesota will be more like Nevada and South Dakota than the Minnesota we know.

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