Give Canterbury racino the go-ahead

The benefits the new complex would have for Minnesota decidely outweigh its drawbacks.

Minnesota stands to gain much from the proposed “racino,” a privately financed addition to Canterbury Park, but the facility is facing opposition from Democrats concerned about expanded dependence on gambling money and possible detrimental effects on American Indian casinos. Republicans are seeking to tip the balance in the racino’s favor.

The revenue that the racino would generate would help alleviate some of the state’s budget woes – to the tune of an estimated $150 million in its first two years. Some of the money would aid local governments, adding to revenue from pari-mutuel betting already in place at the track. The facility would also provide more than 1,400 new jobs for Minnesotans.

Existing Indian casinos stand little chance of suffering if the racino is built. Minnesota’s demand for gaming and entertainment is ever-increasing, and business at many casinos has exploded in recent years. Mystic Lake, a well-established casino near Shakopee, Minn., will not be harmed; the racino will draw new gamblers and horse-racing fans.

Minnesota’s horse industry will only benefit from the racino. An estimated $12 million in additional money each year to increase racing purses will stimulate the state’s horse- breeding industry and encourage more prestigious horses to race at the Canterbury meet. The racino would also include a world-class equestrian park, providing a long-overdue venue for Minnesota’s horsemen and women to keep the economic benefits of equestrian events within the state. Several states, including our Midwest neighbor Iowa, have experienced significant economic benefits resulting from money infused into their horse industries from gambling revenue.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, is right to be cautious about relying too heavily on gambling revenue to bail Minnesota out of its financial rut. But House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, is banking on a realistic $30 million in revenue for the first year. The racino’s additional benefits decidedly outweigh its potential drawbacks.