The racetrack casino concept has been resurrected at the State Capitol as a way to help balance the state budget and solve the Vikings stadium funding problem.
Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, and John Derus, a board member of the Running Aces harness track in Columbus, are promoting the idea of installing slot machines and additional electronic games at the state's two tracks -- Running Aces and Canterbury Park in Shakopee.
They admitted that it is unlikely Canterbury will participate due to the track's marketing agreement with Mystic Lakes Casino. That prevents Canterbury from supporting the racino idea.
That would appear to further complicate passing racino, which is being introduced late in the session and which always attracts opposition from tribal casinos.
But Hackbarth said it remains a good idea and a simple way for the state to raise revenue, particularly when the primary source for the new Vikings stadium, new e-pulltab games, is falling well short of estimated revenues.
"It's not taxpayer dollars, it's voluntary contributions to folks that want to go and play slot machines," said Hackbarth. "It was a great idea as long as I've carried this bill ... I still think it's a good idea."
"We're looking for money now. As you know electronic pulltabs aren't turning out to be exactly what everybody thought they might be. So I think this is a good alternative to get money for the state general fund."
He estimated that if both tracks had racinos, the state would garner more than $100 million in revenues per year. That number could be cut in half if only Running Aces had a racino, he said.
"This is a good idea that has come and gone and come again," said Derus.
Jeff Maday, media relations manager for Canterbury Park, said the 2012 agreement has had the intended effect of increasing purses and drawing more interest in the track. "We've had 2,600 stall applications for 1,600 stalls," he said. "We expect to be at capacity with horses for the first time since 1991."
Maday said Canterbury is committed to making the agreement work -- not to renewing the 14-year battle over racino legislation.
"We're very happy with the agreement," Maday said.
More ideas surfaced Monday for dealing with the stadium funding problem.
Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, Assistant Minority Leader in the Senate, said voters are angry "about the stadium debacle" and the fact that the selected funding source is proving to be insufficient.
He proposed a series of "user fee" taxes on those who use the stadium, such as those who buy tickets, concessions or parking. He said he supported a separate tax on large companies that benefit from having the Vikings in downtown Minneapolis.