Saturday, February 20, 2010


The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe donated more than $513,000 in cash and in-kind contributions to community programs in Minnesota and nationwide in 2009, according to tribal officials. The contributions went to 44 of Minnesota's 67 counties, and two Wisconsin counties that border on Mille Lacs' tribal lands.

Michael Garrow, Commissioner of Corporate Affairs for the Mille Lacs Band, said in a February 19 news release that the tribe is "committed to supporting organizations and causes that sustain our region and enrich the lives of our neighbors and community members." Donations benefited everything from youth wellness and family service groups to organizations that provide transitional employment for recovering alcoholics.

The Mille Lacs Band is the largest taxpayer in Pine County and one of the largest in Mille Lacs County. In 2008, the tribe paid over $1 million in property taxes to Pine County, nearly $400,000 to Mille Lacs County, and a small amount to Aitkin County. The tribe pays property taxes because some facilities are located on fee lands instead of trust land, making them subject to local taxes.

The Mille Lacs Band operates Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley, which together employ more than 2,800 people, of which about 91 percent are non-Indians. Another 640 people work for the tribal government and schools.

"The generosity of the Mille Lacs Band and other Minnesota tribes proves that the Native traditions of sharing are alive and well, even in these difficult economic times," said John McCarthy, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA). "We are very proud of the great work MIGA tribes are doing all across the state."

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Gambling revenue is not the solution to Minnesota's budget problems, says an editorial in the February 11 Grand Forks Herald. Here is the complete text of the column:

By Tom Dennis, Grand Forks Herald

Some Minnesota lawmakers would like to use gambling as a way to help close the state’s $1.2 billion dollar deficit,” a Duluth, Minn., newscast reported.

A DFL senator from Chisholm, Minn., said slots in bars “would be a better alternative to cutting services or raising taxes.”

No, they wouldn’t.

For one thing, gambling revenue wouldn’t fill Minnesota’s multi-billion dollar deficit hole. It wouldn’t even come close. The state still would have to cut services and/or raise taxes. There is no other way.

More important, while gambling revenue in theory could offset some spending cuts and tax hikes, the reality is that the revenue would be just another dodge, just another “easy choice” for lawmakers desperate to avoid the tough choices needed to balance the budget.

Consider Nevada and New Jersey, states whose budgets depend heavily on gambling revenues. Surely Nevada, with its world-famous casinos and gigantic tourism industry, would have enough income to weather the economic storm. Right?

Wrong. “Nevada’s budget is so far out of balance that by one account, the state could lay off every worker paid from the general fund and still be $300 million in the red,” The Associated Press reported last week.

“The economic downturn has hit so hard that prisons may be closed, entire colleges shuttered and thousands left without jobs.”

Today in an emergency State of the State address, the governor of Nevada will announce massive budget cuts — so massive that “poor people eligible for free Medicaid health care no longer would receive eyeglasses, dentures, hearing aids or as many adult diapers,” the Las Vegas Review Journal reported.

As a previous governor said, “The lesson from the past 20 years is clear: Our revenue system is broken because it has relied on regressive and unstable (gambling) taxes.”

OK, how about New Jersey?

“Gov. Chris Christie will declare a state of fiscal emergency Thursday (today) and freeze $1.6 billion in unexpended funds, including $475 million that had been intended as school aid,” Gannett News Service reported Wednesday.

Nevada and New Jersey are not alone. Once upon a time, gambling revenue was thought to be recession proof, but the industry’s expansion across the country has made it much less of a sure thing. In state after state, gambling revenues are falling, failing to keep pace with not only government spending but also traditional tax revenue, the Rockefeller Institute of Government reported last year.

Spending on education and other programs “will generally grow more rapidly than gambling revenue over time,” the institute declared.

“Thus, new gambling operations that are intended to pay for normal increases in general state spending may add to, rather than ease, long-term budget imbalances.”

The institute titled its report, “No More Jackpot.”

Then there’s the fact that vital portions of Minnesota already depend on gambling revenue: the state’s Indian tribes. Expanding gambling statewide would slash the tribes’ revenues — revenues the tribes need to combat some of the state’s worst problems of poverty, unemployment and crime.

“When budgets get tight, expanding gambling always looks to lawmakers like the perfect quick-fix solution,” John Kindt, a University of Illinois professor who studies the impact of state-sponsored gambling, told The New York Times last year.

“But in the end, it so often proves to be neither quick nor a fix.”

That’s advice Minnesota should heed.