Good odds for new revenue

Slots at race tracks, while not ideal, offer needed state budget help.

A pair of DFL state legislators have introduced legislation to allow the stateâÄôs two horse-racing tracks to install slot machines. The two âÄúracinosâÄù would bring an extra $125 million into the stateâÄôs coffers, which would be permanently dedicated for a variety of purposes, including sports stadiums, early childhood education and rural development. Though gambling is present in much of the state on Native American reservations, proposed racinos would bring slot machines into the immediate metro area. Gambling, like alcohol, is a form of recreation with a dark side that must be taken seriously. On balance, however, the added revenues outweigh these very real concerns. Dire state budget projections and limited options for new revenue demand both creativity and compromise. The hard fact is that allowing gamblers new opportunities to expose themselves to risk would be lucrative for the state in this time of need. Still, the proposed bill needs improvement. Future lawmakers should not be hamstrung by inflexible spending rules that lock in a set of debatable priorities, especially not when the general fund is ailing. The governor and legislators are constitutionally responsible for budget decisions; there is no assurance that todayâÄôs are any better at making those judgments than tomorrowâÄôs. On the whole, careful expansion of legalized gambling in Minnesota is not a perfect, complete or permanent solution to our budget woes, but it could be a piece of the puzzle.