Tuesday, March 09, 2010

If I could be Dick Day for a day

Recently, you may have seen or heard former state senator Dick Day working as a lobbyist for "the racino," that is, legislation (SF2950) to permit the same video gaming machines that are already running legally at eighteen casinos around Minnesota to be installed at the Canterbury Park and Running Aces racetracks. The morning line has placed long odds on this old nag, which has repeatedly failed to reach the winners circle since 1997, the year then-Senator Day's racino bill first left the starting gate.

Unfortunately, this year as in 1997 and subsequent years, the racino is being sold on its revenue potential for the state of Minnesota's general fund. This is the wrong approach. A majority of Minnesotans have repeatedly said that video gaming revenue is the wrong way to finance state spending. Besides that, as a former Republican Senator, Dick Day knows that Minnesota does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.

In horse racing, when your horse is not winning, you change something: adjust the horse's medication, add blinders, change the leg wraps, adjust the length or intensity of morning workouts or warmup routine, something.

I think that racino supporters should take a different route, one that appeals to the libertarian and fairness aspects of the measure. If I was Dick Day for a day, I would blow away most of the current communications strategy and sell the racino as a liberterian jobs and economic growth bill:
  • The racinos would create thousands of jobs and boost the local private economies near each location. Purse supplements from video gaming would enable true investments with true returns (not permanent taxpayer liabilities that are sold as "investments") in Minnesota's private racing, horse breeding, and agricultural industries. In a 2004 University of Minnesota study, the horse industry in Minnesota had an economic impact of $1 billion.

  • Legalizing video gaming machines at the Canterbury Park and Running Aces horse tracks would not represent an expansion of gambling. There is already plenty of gambling going on at these facilities.

  • Video gaming is already conducted at Minnesota's eighteen casinos. Why not allow it at Minnesota's two horse racing tracks?

  • Unlike professional and college sports stadiums, building two racinos will be 100% privately financed, requiring no investment or perpetual subsidy from the state.

In the current economic climate, the racino bill would give a needed kick to Minnesota's private economy, and provide an additional entertainment option for residents and tourists. From my perspective, the revenue potential is beside the point.

UPDATE: As one of our commenters pointed out, a poll conducted on March 3, 2010 by SurveyUSA found that 80% of Minnesotans favor a racino. So if we had initiative and referendum in Minnesota, we would have video gaming in exactly two additional venues that already conduct gambling.


Brent said...

Excellent Analysis! You should become a lobbyist.

Christopher said...

I'm not so sure the majority of Minnesotans oppose Racino as a revenue stream for Minnesota. The latest KSTP/Survey USA poll shows 80% of Minnesotans support Racino including 87% of Democrats and 72% of Republicans.


I agree there is a libertarian argument to be made as well but Minnesotans are overwhelmingly in favor of Racinos.