Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Gaming Expansion: Win Win for all in Minnesota

Marge Anderson chief executive of the Millie Lacs Band of Ojibwe wrote a counterpoint in the Star Tribune today on the issue of adding slots to Canterbury Park and Running Aces horse tracks. The counterpoints were given in response to an article, Time for the state to look seriously at slot machines?, written by Neal St. Anthony that raised issue of Sen. Dick Day’s annual attempt of adding slot machines at Canterbury Park and Running Aces to help increase revenue for the state. Over 20 years ago the State entered into a gaming compact with Minnesota Tribes that gave them a virtual monopoly on gaming in Minnesota. The compact does not collect corporate taxes from any of the Minnesota Tribes.

The DFL and Marge Anderson make an argument that expanding gambling will harm Minnesotans and not raise the revenue it touts it will. Expansion of gambling goes on in the tribal casinos. While I worked at one of the local tribal casinos, the expansion of gambling took place. New slot machines popped up in every nook and cranny and remodeling was done to make more room as well.

Marge Anderson fears that adding slot machines to both horse tracks will automatically translate to a huge reduction of 2,900 people employed at Grand Casino locations in Minnesota. Anderson raised objection to the claim that horse tracks are “private operators who hire people and pay taxes” as that is what Grand Casino does as well. The claim is true, Grand Casino does pay employee payroll tax and makes the claim of paying property taxes as well. Meanwhile not one tribal casino pays corporate income tax, the tribal casino is a tax haven in that respect.

I also worked for one of the two horse tracks and understand the reasoning why many made the switch from tribal casino to non-tribal casino; respect. Tribal casinos do not observe, at least when I worked there, the equal employment act that other companies in the United States must do. If slot machines were added to Canterbury Park and Running Aces, the concern by Marge Anderson that employment would fall may be due to the employment practices of the tribal casino.

Las Vegas, although is impacted by recession, has done well with a competitive landscape of multiple casino options. Competition is better for the consumer. Marge Anderson asks at the end of her counterpoint, “How could opening the door to gaming expansion be right for Minnesota when it hurts so many Minnesotans?”

Simply put, it will improve the service level by increasing the competition. The service level will have to be elevated by all involved in the casino industry. The employee will benefit as well as the consumer. It is time to end the monopoly and increase revenue by adding full gaming options to Canterbury Park and Running Aces.