Monday’s welcome news that Minnesota’s budget deficit shrank by a fifth to $5 billion doesn’t substantially change our state’s dire fiscal plight. We’re in a heap of fiscal trouble.
There’s no magic bullet that will solve this problem so Gov. Dayton and the Legislature are going to have to look at a wide range of options. One of the options is being pushed by Running Aces, the lesser known of Minnesota’s horse racing tracks, located northeast of Coon Rapids. Track officials are asking for legislation to permit slot machines at Running Aces and Canterbury Park. That move, they argue could generate as much as $100 million per year in additional revenue for the state.
There are legitimate concerns about expanding gambling and the social ills that can come with such an expansion. There are also those who point out that the addition of slot machines at the two state-regulated tracks would endanger the successful gaming operations of Minnesota’s tribal casinos.
For better or worse, gambling is a part of our society. Those who want to gamble will find a way, whether it’s pull-tabs, the state-run lottery, slot machines or Internet gambling. It’s not unreasonable for the state to tax such activity, just as it garners revenue from pull-tabs and the lottery.
The addition of state-regulated slot machines will likely have an affect on Indian gaming, but every financial enterprise in the state has had to face changing economic landscapes. Indian casinos are no exception. When the state agreed to a compact on gambling with the Indian tribes it never promised a monopoly.
Legislation to allow video and slot machines at racing tracks — perhaps with a sunset clause to reevaluate the law — would provide the state with a new revenue stream that would only be a burden those who chose to gamble. It’s a move that would help the state through its current economic crisis and possibly help prevent future general fund budget shortfalls.