Rochester GOP Sen. Dave Senjem is taking the lead in pushing a bill to allow video slot machines at two horse-racing tracks in the state.
I just got a press release about a news conference slated for 10 a.m. Monday at the state Capitol announcing Senjem will be the chief author of the racino bill. Also joining him will be DFL Sen. Dan Sparks of Austin, who sponsored the bill last year. Rep. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, will be the chief author in the house. The measure could raise $250 million per year.
Previous racino attempts have fizzled at the Capitol. But with the state facing a $5 billion budget deficit, this might be the year lawmakers and the governor are willing to consider gambling as part of the solution. A big question is how those racino dollars would be used. One option would be for the money to help go towards building a new Minnesota Vikings Stadium. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would not want to see gambling money diverted to a stadium. Rather, he would like to see any such revenues go towards education.
Joining the lawmakers for the press conference will be representatives from Minnesota's equine industry, who are strong supporters of the bill. But expect a tough fight on the measure — especially from Native American tribes who argue this expands gambling in the state and will divert business from their casinos.