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.

  • max anderson

    Rep. Mark Buesgens use of a comparison of retail stores and gambling establisments is somewhat disingenous and a very poor comparison. The real difference is that anyone can open a retail business, currently and under the proposed racino law not anyone is free to open a gambling business, Rep. Buesgens would continue to limit operating gambling houses to a chosen few.

    If Rep. Buesgens would open up gambling to any reputable person wanting to start up this type of business I could agree with him, but that is not the case, the Representative only wants to give this privaledge to a special few that support his political views and cough up campaign cash.

    Only Rep. Buesgens knows why he betrays his own principles of an open and free market by continuing in restricting business to certain individuals.

  • Jerry Joubert

    It is almost unbelievable that people are even still debating why or why not to have the Racinos help Minnesotas economy and save the horse racing industry in Minnesota. Their is one reason. Everyone knows on both sides. The money from the tribes means more to the people opposed to economic growth in Minnesota then for them to what is right and what 70% of Minnesotans want. Allow Racino. Period.

  • E. Baylor

    The same people who want to “save horse racing” I’m sure are the same people who opposed bailing out the auto industry. If horse racing can’t survive on it’s own then so be it. Must not be that popular. Expanding gambling isn’t such a cut and dry decision. Plus, if they just funnel the revenue to the Vikings, what exactly are we getting for the people of MN? More people throwing money away at a casino, rich getting richer be it the Vikes owners or horse owners.

    • Patrice Underwood

      Dear E Baylor
      Yes, there are people that want to “save horse racing”. We are the same small business owners ( breeders, trainers, grooms, exercise riders, jockeys, feed stores, blacksmiths.Vets ) that were put out of business in 1992 when Canterbury was forced to closed, at the same time Mystic Lake, just a few miles down the road opened. Horse racing CAN survive on its own, as long as the fast paced, glam. Lights, bells, sparkle, games of chance aren’t taking the entertainment dollar just a few miles away.
      Meanwhile, Minnesota lost many residents as people were forced to leave the state to pursue their careers. The “game” of skill that people loved and supported was gone.
      We are not asking to be “bailed out” We want no money from the Government or taxpayers. Pay attention, we want to PAY TAXES.
      It is not Expansion, just a different type, at a state regulated (not supported) venue.

  • E. Baylor

    Sooooooooo horse racing can succeed on it’s own as long as “fast paced, glam, lights, bells, sparkle, games of chance..aren’t a few miles away.” So, in other words, it cannot stand on it’s own so lets bring all the aforementioned games of chance to the race track? Well, why stop there. Let’s make grocery store casinos for those stores that can’t compete with the bright lights and low prices of other stores. Why not just make the metrodome a casino? Bet the high school football games would really draw then!

    These are two issues. Why don’t we ever talk about a casino to fund something decent. How about instead of school levies we just take racino dollars? Why add gambling for the sole purpose of building a football stadium?

    Truth be told, I don’t care one way or the other but as with everything in this state, a decision can never be made.