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Session 2004

Session 2004: Gambling

Despite a half dozen major proposals to do so, the Legislature did not agree on any bills to expand gambling in Minnesota. The Republican House had pushed hardest and Gov. Tim Pawlenty never quite said no, hinting that tribes with casinos would do well to voluntarily share profits with the state or risk facing new competition. A "racino" plan would have allowed slot machines at the Canterbury Park horse track. Another idea would have put a new casino in the northern Twin Cities suburbs that would share profits with the White Earth and Red Lake bands who now don't earn as much from casinos as other tribes. Another would have allowed slot machines in bars. The closest the Senate came to support was when the Senate Tax Committee passed a hybrid bill in the final days of the session. By then, there wasn't enough time for it to move.

The push to generate new state gambling revenues appears over for the year after a Senate committee Thursday night rejected or passed over the major casino initiatives. The Senate Taxes committee, however, did approve a plan calling for the governor to discuss an off-reservation casino with any of the state's 11 Indian communities that express an interest. But with only days left in the legislative session, that proposal seems certain to stall. And some tribal representatives are already suggesting it may be unworkable and unwelcome. (05/14/2004)
Las Vegas-based Caesar's Entertainment has finally shown its Minnesota hand. After months of quiet lobbying, the company Tuesday made a public pitch to lawmakers for a new, private casino. Caesar's officials have their eyes on a site next to the Mall of America in Bloomington -- but legislators from that area are bristling at the idea of a major gambling venue in their backyard. The package is one of several gambling options that are making the rounds at the Capitol in the final week of the regular session. (05/12/2004)
The Mille Lacs Grand Casino's new ad campaign makes their casinos look like good, clean places to have a little fun. In today's political environment, that's not a simple message. (05/04/2004)
Caesar's Entertainment would like to build a casino near the Mall of America and promises tidy tax revenue for the state. A look at the Caesar's proposal and at the other gambling bills pending this legislative session. ( 05/04/2004)
Opposition to gambling has brought together a couple of unlikely partners. The Taxpayers League of Minnesota is joining forces with a coalition of religious organizations to speak out against proposals that would expand gambling. The groups say they intend to run radio advertisements and lobby the DFL-controlled Senate to stop the creation of a state-run casino in Minnesota. (04/27/2004)
Two Republican lawmakers say the state should outlaw video slot machines statewide unless the state's Native American tribes agree to share a portion of their casino revenues. Indian tribes are reacting negatively, calling the plan a form of legislative blackmail. (03/03/2004)
It's been 15 years since state officials signed gaming compacts with Minnesota's Indian tribes. Since then, the tribes have built 18 casinos, which generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue -- far more than anyone imagined they would. The state of Minnesota gets only a small sliver of that money. Minnesota's contract with the tribes is permanent -- no expiration, no renegotiation. Gov. Pawlenty has hinted it's time for a change. (03/01/2004)
State officials say Minnesota's budget outlook shows a slight improvement from last fall. The latest revenue forecast shows a projected $160 million deficit through June 2005. That's a smaller deficit than many lawmakers had predicted, but plugging the budget hole may still prove contentious. (02/27/2004)
A report from the Legislative Auditor's office criticizes the Minnesota Lottery for mismanagement and inefficiency. It recommends tighter controls over the agency's management. The evaluation also questions the lottery's relationship with the St. Paul-based public relations firm Media Rare. The findings come three weeks after Lottery Director George Andersen committed suicide. (02/19/2004)
Gov. Pawlenty in his speech Thursday called for a re-examination of the 15-year-old gaming compacts that authorize the state's 11 American Indian tribes to operate casinos. The governor has long been an opponent of sanctioning new gambling facilities, but he's suggesting that a "better deal" could be negotiated with the tribes based on their current operations, perhaps one that requires them to share a portion of their gaming revenues with the state. (02/05/2004)
State lawmakers reconvened for state's 83rd legislative session on Monday in St. Paul, but kept the first day's agenda light. The centerpiece of this year's efforts is supposed to concentrate on borrowing cash for long-term projects. But all eyes are also nervously watching a state economic report due at the end of the month that will indicate how much of last year's deficit remains unfilled. And with money tight, supporters of new gambling opportunities see a chance to advance their cause. (02/02/2004)