Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem said today he decided against going ahead with a planned hearing in the Senate Education Committee on his racino bill, which would use the gambling money to help repay money owed to K-12 schools.
"We weren't ready. I wasn't sure about the votes," Senjem said.
The Rochester Republican is sponsoring four racino-related bills. The would allow video slot machines at the state's two horseracing tracks — Canterbury Park and Running Aces Harnass Park. Senjem's bills vary on how the money raised from racinos would be used. The bill scheduled to be discussed at today's hearing would have required the bulk of the funding go towards repaying the $2.2 billion borrowed from K-12 schools to help with the state's budget woes. Estimates suggest allowing racinos would generate more than $130 million per year for the state.
But Senjem's racino proposals faces fierce opposition from Minnesota Indian Tribes that have their own casinos. That includes Prairie Island Indian Community, which owns and operates Treasure Island Resort and Casino near Red Wing. They argue that if video slot machines are added to horseracing tracks it will hurt business at tribal casinos and lead to job losses in greater Minnesota. Also opposing the bill are lawmakers concerned about the social costs associated with expanding gambling in the state.
There is still the potential that racinos could end up being part of the proposal to fund a new Minnesota Vikings stadium. But DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has raised concerns that trying to move ahead with racinos could lead to a lengthy legal fight that would delay the state getting the money. He has said of all the gambling proposals that electronics pull tabs appear to have the most support in the legisalture.