Column put the 'race' in racino proposal

  • Article by: JOHN MCCARTHY
  • Updated: May 4, 2011 - 6:10 AM

Push for gambling expansion would cost jobs and undermine tribal progress, and it recalls a dark chapter in the state's history.

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A slot player tries his luck on the Golden Monkey machine at the Grand Casino Mille Lacs. In the economic downturn, some Minnesota casinos are noticing fewer customers and less revenue.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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It is sad to see that at least some of the support for gambling expansion comes from "old Indian fighters" whose trademark is hate speech against Native Americans.

The April 29 commentary by Gary Larson ("Indian gaming lobby and the DFL it props up prefer status quo") is a perfect example. The column is nothing but misinformation and race-baiting.

It is simply wrong to claim that tribal casinos are untaxed. In fact, they are taxed at a rate of 100 percent.

That means that all of the proceeds from tribal casinos go directly to the tribal governments that operate them. In this they are like the Minnesota Lottery, which is operated by the state, with all proceeds after prizes going to the state.

In both cases, government gaming proceeds are used to provide for the needs of citizens in areas like health care, education, economic development, housing, elder services, law enforcement, emergency services and infrastructure maintenance.

Larson conveniently ignores the fact that federal law prohibits states from taxing Indian tribes.

As sovereign governments equal to states under the Constitution, tribes have no legal obligation to pay state taxes. They certainly have no moral obligation either, given the sad history of tribal-state relations in Minnesota.

Non-Indians may forget that this state was the site of the largest mass execution in American history -- the hanging of 38 Sioux warriors at Mankato by order of President Abraham Lincoln.

Some Minnesotans may not even know that it was a Minnesota governor, Alexander Ramsey, who called for the extermination of all Sioux people. He placed bounties on their scalps in an effort to promote an Indian genocide.

Racism against Native Americans is an ugly but indisputable part of the historical record in Minnesota.

And we wonder why Native nations have no interest in bailing out state government?

Larson seems to believe that tribal contributions to Democrats are the main reason why racino bills have failed in the past. He's wrong again.

The truth is that opposition to gambling expansion is strong in both parties.

If Democrats were the only ones who opposed expansion, the racino would be a slam-dunk in this Republican-controlled Legislature -- but it's not. In fact, the state Republican platform includes an anti-expansion provision.

What apparently sticks in Larson's craw the most is that the tribal-state gaming compacts are perpetual. Again, his ignorance is showing.

Compacts are treaties, and yes, they are perpetual. They were not "hatched" by the DFL; in fact, it was Gov. Arne Carlson, a Republican, who signed the blackjack compacts in 1990.

The claim that racinos will create jobs is patently bogus. Racinos at Canterbury Park and Running Aces could mean the loss of as many as 3,000 jobs from Mystic Lake, Treasure Island, and the Grand Casinos at Mille Lacs and Hinckley.

Even more jobs will be lost if a third racino is authorized in Hibbing.

In addition to these lost jobs and the resulting economic harm to the surrounding communities, the loss of tribal revenues will force cutbacks in tribal government services.

For communities just beginning to see daylight after more than a century of darkness, this would be a cruel and inhumane loss of ground.

For people like Gary Larson, it's a win-win when Indians lose. It is sad that some Minnesotans still think like Alexander Ramsey.

John McCarthy is executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association.

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