Opinion: Permitting slots at race track winning combination

Minnesota is facing one of its most daunting challenges in generations. The state’s $6.2 billion deficit is the largest in its history. While Minnesota’s job growth is performing better than the national average, the Great Recession still has left the state with a jobs deficit. There is one proposal that could help cut both deficits.
Minnesota’s gaming industry wants to play a role in creating jobs throughout the state and helping solve part of the short- and long-term budget problems. Running Aces Harness Park, one of two state-licensed and –regulated gaming facilities in Minnesota, is seeking permission from the Legislature to add slot machines to its card room, which already offers poker and blackjack. Permitting slots at the tracks only offers current customers an additional game.
Permitting slot machines at the two state-licensed and -regulated race tracks also helps create a fairer, more level playing field with Minnesota’s 18 tribal casinos. The race tracks would be able to offer the same video and slot machines currently offered at the tribal casinos. Tribal casinos would still maintain their untaxed and unregulated status, as well as have more than 10 times the number of slot machines.
With the addition of slot machines, the two race tracks would be subject to a new gaming tax, of which 100 percent of the revenue would be available to Gov. Dayton and the Legislature to help balance the budget and fund Minnesota’s priorities. Within six months of legislative approval, gaming tax revenue would start flowing into the state and give lawmakers another option to help balance the budget. That’s a winning proposition.
Slots at the track would also create thousands of new jobs across the state and generate $400 million in new economic activity. Slots at the tracks would help Minnesota’s hospitality and entertainment industry, as well as provide a boost for the rural economy. New jobs, new tax revenue, new investment: It is Minnesota’s budget jackpot.
Some people have said slots at the track would solve all of Minnesota’s problems. Others have said it would result in staggering losses at the tribal casinos. Neither claim is true, but one thing is certain: permitting slots at the track is a winning proposition for Minnesota and should be part of a solution. — John Derus, Minnesota’s Budget Jackpot

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