Racino is about fair competition,not monopolies

Taxpayer League of Minnesota is on the wrong side of their own beliefs

Rep. Mark Buesgens
Guest Columnist

Hometown Source recently published an op-ed by Phil Krinkie, president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, arguing against competition in Minnesota’s multi-billion dollar gaming industry. Basically, Krinkie argued that although the owners of tribal casinos have enjoyed a profitable and tax-free monopoly for more than two decades, the Legislature should not pass Racino legislation because that would create another monopoly.

Opponents of gaming competition sometimes work so hard to find a reason to oppose Racinos that they lose track of their fundamental beliefs. More than 70 percent of Minnesotans support Racinos because they would add more competition to a gaming industry in which there is not currently real competition.

The state already licenses Canterbury Park and Running Aces to offer horse racing and table games. Racino legislation would allow them to also offer video lottery terminals, which are currently only operating in tribal casinos.

If Mr. Krinkie is right, and this is the same as providing another monopoly, no city in America should ever allow a second restaurant, grocery or clothing store. After all, adding another option in this situation doesn’t seem to be adding a competitor, according to Krinkie’s logic, but rather a second monopoly. This doesn’t make any sense.

Krinkie further argues that although the Tribes have long maintained a tax-free monopoly, any attempt to “level the playing field” by passing Racino legislation would only enrich “privately owned, for-profit businesses.” This is a rather odd claim given the fact that Canterbury is, and has been for years, a publicly owned company whose stock is available to the general public.

Canterbury certainly is a for-profit business, which is the very kind of business the taxpayers league often argues should perform most public functions. Under Krinkie’s thinking, publicly-traded, highly-regulated companies should take a back seat in Minnesota when it comes to offering gaming.

Finally, Krinkie suggests that the taxpayer’s league opposes the payment of tax revenue from an industry that for more than two decades has been relieved of that responsibility. Years ago the Tribes negotiated compacts that provide them the right to conduct gambling, forever, without making the payments that tribal casino owners in other states make for this privilege.

In Minnesota, tribal casino owners pay no tax or fee on their business operations, unlike any other profitable business, including Mr. Krinkie’s own heating and air conditioning business.

Racino supporters don’t believe that tribal casinos should be taxed — that horse is out of the barn. But they also shouldn’t receive monopoly protection for their tax-free operations.

Since the state-tribal compacts don’t prohibit competition, and the Minnesota Constitution allows state-owned lottery games, there is little reason for the Legislature to continue the self-imposed prohibition on video lottery terminals at horse tracks. Minnesota should join the 14 other states that allow Racinos, and create the jobs that come with those Racinos in the construction, hospitality and agricultural industries.

Only Mr. Krinkie can explain why the taxpayers league opposes competition, opposes fair taxation, and opposes fewer government restrictions on the legal activities of publicly-traded and licensed companies.

And only Mr. Krinkie can explain what is so appealing about continuing monopoly protection for a tax-free business operation in Minnesota. From where I sit, the taxpayers league seems to be on the wrong side of their own beliefs this time.

— The writer is from Savage and represents Minnesota House District 35B.