Thursday, July 14, 2011


On Wednesday (July 13), legislators from the Shakopee area held a news conference calling attention to the harm caused to employees of Canterbury Park and Running Aces by the state government shutdown. The tracks, which are regulated by state racing commissioners, have been closed since July 1 because they are not permitted to operate without regulatory oversight.

In response to the press conference, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe issued the following statement:

Following the press conference held today by Shakopee area lawmakers, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe wishes to express compassion for the many people whose jobs depend on the operation of Canterbury Park and Running Aces. The temporary closure of those tracks is a regrettable by-product of the state government shutdown, and we take no joy in their problems.

At the same time, the tracks’ temporary closure is completely separate from the issue of creating racinos at the tracks as an additional revenue source for state government. Racinos will merely shift existing jobs in rural Minnesota (where new job creation is extremely difficult) to the metro area. Racinos will create no net increase in economic development for Minnesota. And racinos will cause permanent damage to existing jobs and regional economies in many corners of the state.

The people connected to Canterbury Park and Running Aces do not deserve to have their livelihoods threatened by temporary government inaction. Similarly, the thousands of people and many communities throughout rural Minnesota whose livelihoods depend on tribal gaming should not be jeopardized by permanent government action.

The Mille Lacs Band hopes that Governor Dayton and the Legislature will resolve their differences soon and end the economic pain for the people employed by the tracks and others harmed by the shutdown. We also hope that they do not embrace racinos to solve a small piece of their budget differences, as that would only create deeper and more permanent pain in rural Minnesota.

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, which owns Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley, estimates a loss of up to 40% in revenues should racino legislation pass. The Band’s two casinos directly employ approximately 3,000 people, of whom about 93% live in the rural Minnesota counties surrounding the casinos.

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is a self-governing, federally recognized Indian tribe located in East Central Minnesota. The Band has more than 4,000 enrolled members, for whom it provides a wide variety of programs and services.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


A costly pro-racino ad campaign funded by Running Aces Harness Track is promising much more than two racinos actually could deliver for Minnesota, according to Chairman Kevin Leecy of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa in Northern Minnesota.

Leecy, speaking for the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, was responding to comments made by Running Aces spokesman John Derus recently on Fox9 News. In that broadcast, Derus debated the racino proposal with Senator Dave Thompson, an opponent of gambling expansion.

"Racino advocates speak as if racinos can solve the state's budget crisis," Leecy said. "Nothing could be further from the truth. Even if their revenue projections were accurate, the racinos wouldn't even cover one-half of one-percent of the state's budget. That's not even a drop in the bucket, it's a drop in the ocean."

Leecy said the job creation claims of racino proponents are misleading and disingenuous. "If we create one job in the Twin Cities, and it costs two jobs in rural Minnesota, that's no net gain for the state," he said. "These rural gaming jobs are irreplaceable; what other employer is going to move to Tower or Virginia to create hundreds of good-paying jobs with full health and retirement benefits?"

The tribal job losses will be in tribal government as well as gaming operations, Leecy said. "We take a double hit when we lose revenues," he noted. "We are not only forced to cut jobs, but also to cut government programs that serve children and families."

Leecy said that claims about the benefits of the racino to Minnesota's agriculture economy have been greatly exaggeration. Fewer than two percent of Minnesota horses ever set foot on a racetrack, he noted, so the benefits of higher purses will be enjoyed by a small fraction of the state's horse owners.

"You don't hear much about it, but the biggest gainers from the racinos will be the shareholders of Canterbury Park and Running Aces," Leecy said. "A handful of investors will get the lion's share of the profits--and most of them don't even live in Minnesota."

The fact that Running Aces is spending money to run print and radio ads shows that they fear the racino has been taken off the table in state budget negotiations.

"Most people have figured out that these racino promises have been greatly over-sold and under-documented," Leedy said. "Hopefully, Governor Dayton and legislative leadership will see past the smoke and mirrors, and base their budget solutions on reality."