Republicans, Democrats agree expanding gambling is a bad bet
by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter
Should a Lakeville resident want to have a poker club in their garage, that’s up to them, explained Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville. “I wouldn’t be interested in the police stopping that,” he said.
But Thompson is against government urging people to make “bad choices” like gambling, and then scarfing up the revenue to fund itself.
Thompson was one of a group of bipartisan lawmakers appearing at the State Capitol on Thursday, Oct. 27 to speak out against gambling expansion.
Although some of the lawmakers were reluctant to mention the Vikings’ stadium debate — Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, said she’d be speaking out against expansion regardless of the proposed use of the money — racino, pulltabs, and other forms of gambling have been raised as possible funding sources for a new Vikings’ stadium.
Indeed, Minneapolis city officials have indicated a willingness to see a casino in downtown Minneapolis.
But the anti-gambling expansion lawmakers blasted the idea of more gambling, arguing the revenue is unstable, much of it derived from problem gamblers.
And it’s a tax increase, said Lenczewski, one of a handful of DFL lawmakers appearing at the press conference. “(It’s) a bad tax increase,” she said. It’s one directed against a subset of Minnesotans.
And gambling is as addictive to states as to gamblers, Lenczewski argued.
“States do get addicted to this,” she said, citing states where one casino has followed another.
While the lawmakers expressed hope that the Minnesota Vikings would remain in Minnesota, they placed the burden of that decision on team ownerships, not the Minnesota Legislature. “I have to do what I believe is right,” Thompson said. “If they (the Vikings) make that decision (to leave), I’m personally willing to live with that.”
Asked after the press conference whether he would get hammered by voters if the team leaves, Thompson said, “I don’t know.” The public is “all over the board” on the Vikings’ stadium issue, Thompson said.
Indeed, Thompson, as another Senate Republican recently reported, said the Senate Republican Caucus is divided over the stadium.
Thompson could support state infrastructure improvements for a new stadium, he said, but no more than that afforded any other business. Other than that, the Vikings should get “zero” from the state, he said.
Lenczewski argued that the state could be getting in over its head with the Vikings’ stadium.
Some of the Vikings’ stadium supporters seemed “pretty gullible” in accepting the demands the team is placing on government she argued.
As she has in the past, Lenczewski said government has no business brokering business decisions.
“This is not what government is good at,” Lenczewski said.
Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, one of three Republican state senators at the press conference, joked the group should be called the Eclectic Legislative Coalition.
It included several Minneapolis House Democrats.
But gambling expansion does appeal to some lawmakers.
Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, while saying he believed addressing the state budget takes priority over the Vikings’ stadium, indicated support for racino.
Besides a possible stadium funding source, racino would greatly benefit the rural economy, he said.
DFL State Sen. Tom Bakk, the minority leader from Cook, on Tuesday proposed an electronic version of pulltabs that would be sold at public locations across Minnesota, generating some $40 million a year. It could be used as one source of state funding for the stadium, he said.