Two Republicans resuscitate racino bill, tout budget benefits

  • Updated: March 11, 2008 - 1:39 AM

Two Republican legislators have renewed efforts to authorize casino gambling at the Canterbury Park racetrack, saying slot machines would generate revenue to help the state narrow its budget gap.

Sen. Dick Day of Owatonna and Rep. Mark Buesgens of Jordan say a racino could bring at least $100 million to the state annually and create more than 1,000 jobs.

Previous attempts to put a casino at Canterbury failed in the face of opposition from American Indian tribal casinos and from legislators, especially DFLers, who opposed what they called an expansion of gambling.

But Day and Buesgens said the projected $935 million state budget deficit offers a new reason to open a government-sponsored racino.

"We could make smaller cuts to the current budget or take less from reserves than we have to otherwise," Day said.

Sen. Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, the assistant Senate majority leader, expressed doubt that a racino would raise $100 million and said the proposal lacked political support.

"Most people don't perceive this as an issue that is in play," Clark said. "It's a horse that has no pulse."

Day and Buesgens said they were reviving their 2005 legislation, which didn't specifically name Canterbury but required that a track be operating for five years for it to be eligible for a racino.

PAT DOYLE

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