Monday, February 21, 2011
"It's important for Minnesotans to understand the experience of other states that have relied on VLTs, casinos and racinos for revenue," said MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy. "Every day, the failure of gambling to solve state fiscal problems is making news somewhere. The people here have a right to know about those situations."
Thursday, February 17, 2011
The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) has issued an Action Alert asking tribal employees, vendors and supporters to urge their state senators to oppose SF174 and SF 308, two bills that would authorize slot machines in more than 2,500 bars and restaurants across Minnesota.
MIGA issued its alert today in response to last week's introduction of two neighborhood gambling bills in the Minnesota Senate. MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy said either measure would do immeasurable harm to Indian gaming and change the face of Minnesota neighborhoods forever.
SF 174, authored by Sen. Michelle Fischbach (SD14) would authorize up to ten slot machines (VLTs) in any liquor-licensed establishment that now offers charitable gambling, more than 2,500 locations statewide. Electronic bingo and pulltab machines would also be permitted.
SF 308, authored by Sen. Ingebrigtsen (SD11), would authorize up to 5 slots in these 2,500-plus locations.
Both SF 174 and SF 308 would mean a huge expansion of gambling in Minnesota. The number of gambling venues would skyrocket from 19 destination casinos to more than 2,500 locations statewide. The number of slot machines available to gamblers would explode as well—from around 21,000 now to nearly 50,000, depending on which bill ultimately wins passage. It’s a regulatory and enforcement nightmare.
Under either bill, Indian gaming would suffer serious harm. Minnesota’s rural casinos, especially those in more remote areas, rely largely on their local markets for survival. If hundreds of mini-casinos open their doors in those markets, the tribes will suffer huge revenue losses. That means job cuts, cutbacks in vendor spending, tax revenue losses, and increased costs for counties and the state. The state couldn’t pick a more destructive approach if it deliberately set out to wipe out the gains tribes have made over the past two decades.
McCarthy also noted that Minnesota bars and eateries will be installing machines, not hiring more people. Neighborhood gambling is not labor intensive, so the jobs lost at tribal casinos will never be offset by new job creation in bars and restaurants.
"There's no such thing as a free lunch," McCarthy concluded. "Legislators need to hear from the thousands of people who work in tribal gaming and government. They need to hear from the thousands of Minnesota companies that sell goods and services to tribes. They need to hear from elected officials who recognize the value of Indian gaming to their local economies. There's a cost to putting these tribal businesses at risk--a huge cost. Our legislators need to hear that side of the story."
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Racinos at Canterbury Park and Running Aces Harness Track offer no jackpot for Minnesota, says MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy in an opinion commentary published in today's Bemidji Pioneer.
McCarthy accused racino advocates of using "bogus arguments and inflated claims" to mislead Minnesotans about the supposed benefits of the racino proposals. He was responding to a previously published commentary by John Derus, a former elected official currently employed by the Running Aces Harness Track to promote its racino effort. Here's what McCarthy wrote:
"The February 11 column by John Derus, a paid advocate for the racino, presents bogus arguments and inflated claims about the benefits of racinos at the state’s two racetracks. What Derus doesn’t talk about in his column is the high cost of this proposal to Indian tribes, rural economies and ultimately, the state itself.
"Racino proponents claim that their proposal to add slots to racetracks will generate $125 million a year for the state. What they don’t tell Minnesotans is that this amount represents less than two-tenths of one percent of the state’s $6.2 billion deficit. That isn’t even a drop in the bucket; it’s a drop in the ocean.
"They also fail to mention that slot machine revenues have fallen far short of projections in most states, including Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, and Montana. Those states are now scrambling to plug the budget holes left by these shortfalls. Gambling is an unreliable source of budgeted revenue.
"Predictably, Derus hauled out the old “level playing field” chestnut. Whenever tribes have had something of value, the dominant society has destroyed or seized it in the name of “leveling the playing field.” Here we go again. Tribes have barely had an opportunity to get in the game, and others are looking to change the rules of the playing field and undo their progress.
"Derus claims that the state would get “100 percent of the new gaming tax.” That’s very deceptive. In fact, the racino is likely to be taxed at a rate of 30 to 50 percent, depending on the proposal. The remaining 50 to 70 percent of revenue will go to the wealthy investors that own the two tracks. In the case of Running Aces, those shareholders don’t even live in Minnesota.
"In contrast, tribal casinos are taxed at a rate of 100 percent, meaning that all casino revenues go to tribal governments to pay for housing, human services, health care, education, water and sanitation, law enforcement, courts, tribal administration and infrastructure. Those investments in community benefit all of Minnesota, and not just a group of out-of-state investors.
"As far as regulation, tribal casinos are infinitely more regulated than Minnesota’s racetrack industry or the state lottery. Congress made tribes the primary regulators of their own gaming operations, but they are also regulated by Congress, the Department of the Interior, the National Indian Gaming Commission and the State of Minnesota under the compacts.
"The claim that slots at the track will create “thousands of new jobs” across the state is patently false. In fact, the opposite is true. Slots at Running Aces or Canterbury will merely shift jobs from rural Minnesota to the metro area.
"A racino at Running Aces Harness track, for example, could cut revenues at Mille Lacs Band facilities up to 40 percent, potentially leading to the loss of as many as 1200 jobs in rural Minnesota. A track at Canterbury Park would force Mystic Lake to lay off at least 30 percent of its workforce, possibly more. Even if every laid off employee were hired by the track, we’re still looking at no net job gain for Minnesota.
"In addition to cutting jobs, tribal casinos affected by racino competition also would be forced to reduce their spending on goods and services, costing Minnesota tribal vendors as much as $200 million a year.
"It’s unfortunate that racino proponents are not giving Minnesotans the full story. Racinos will not solve our budget problems, create new jobs or generate new economic activity. They’ll only shift jobs and divert income from rural Minnesota to the metro area. That’s not a jackpot. It’s a hijacking."
Friday, February 11, 2011
MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy said that state officials have never approached the tribes with any concerns about potential misuse of the state-issued EBT cards at tribal casinos.
“The tribes were unaware of this issue until it surfaced in the media over the last couple of days,” McCarthy said. “Now that we’ve been given a heads-up, MIGA tribes are working with their ATM vendors to identify a solution. We appreciate being made aware of the problem. We would not want to facilitate anyone's misuse of public assistance.”
McCarthy said the solution likely involves making technical adjustments so that all casino cash machines are able to recognize and block the EBT cards.