Everybody wants something.
I get most of my news about MN from Pied Piper's daily breakdown. But sometimes I need to survey the scene myself, descend from the abstract to the particular, see and hear the gambling masses at Canterbury Park in Shakopee and get the scoop straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak.
If you are unfamiliar with horse racing, like me, Thursday Buck Nights ($1 admission, $1 hot dogs, $1 sodas and $1 nachos) seem propitious. So, I made the pilgrimage with two friends to Shakopee. From the grandstand overlooking the track, one takes in "beautiful" views of Valley Fair, the Shakopee water tower, horse stables and houses. People come from all over MN: Princeton, Rosemont, St. Anthony, Edina, Minneapolis. Last night, like every night, the mutuel betting system was in full tilt. At the racino games rooms, "Saturdays are so super at Canterbury Park, we decided to call them Super Saturday Cash Giveaway days!!," the announcer said. For at least a majority of those in attendance, it is only the thrill of gambling which makes racing fans of the public (I bet $2 to win on Cat Toy. My pick came in last. That's why I don't gamble).
Running a gambling house was something only gangsters, like Al Capone, made a living from. Today, however, respectable gambling-houses are no longer a social anomaly. Indeed, gaming is in high demand; it's popular. The polls indicate that 70 percent of those polled are in favor of racino at Canterbury Park. Though some Democrats think that it is "wrong" to make "government dependent on people's gambling losses," (AP, July 7, 2005), extracting taxes and fees from the profits of institutions — restaurants, bars, casinos, liquor stores, cigarette manufacturers, beer companies, sports venues, etc. — that feed the bad habits — smoking, drinking, gambling, etc. — of the largely poor masses who live cheap, hard lives is nothing new.
Racino, as of 1 p.m. Friday, is off the bargaining table in the ongoing partisan efforts to set the sources of tax and non-tax revenue to pay for the state's budget — but not forever. If the state resolves the government shutdown without racino revenue, you can bet that at least Canterbury Park and its full-time lobbyist will continue to push for racino legislation. You see, Canterbury is affected by the Keeping-up-with-the-Joneses ratchet effect. Though the track's profits continue to increase, if it would attract quality horses and wagering dollars, it has to be competitive with other tracks across America, which have been able to offer more and more prize money by establishing — that's right — racinos (see Star Tribune, May 6, 2005, p. 14C). Canterbury thinks racino is a sure bet, a way to attract major league horse racing. In exchange, they would be willing to pay the state $210 million over the next two years, money that the state would allot (if it is allotable) for "supplemental" spending, such as "more aid to local government, public pensions, improving water quality and providing salary supplements for government employees" (Star Tribune, July 7, 2005, p. 1A). That's what they want.
The Indians want to maintain their lucrative monopoly on casinos. Tim Pawlenty wants racino to pay for budget priorities. Democratic leaders don't want to expand casino gambling and belive that the promise of racino revenue is unfounded. Public opinion wants racino.
I say, let them gamble at Canterbury, too. If you disagree, then explain to me this: Why should Mystic Lake, which is only four miles away, be allowed to make untaxed millions and not Canterbury?