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Dave Olson, Published February 02 2011

Day: Time for a racino in Minnesota: Former lawmaker says state-run facility could provide $125 million a year

The time is right for “racino” betting in Minnesota, a former state senator said Tuesday.

Dick Day, a six-term Republican from Owatonna and former minority leader, told Rotary Club members in Moorhead that legislation allowing slot machines at the Canterbury Park horse-racing track in Shakopee, Minn., has a decent chance of passing this year, or at least getting a full hearing before lawmakers.

Day, president of Racino Now, described himself as a lobbyist pushing for the establishment of slot machine gaming at Canterbury that would be run by the Minnesota Lottery.

He said it is estimated $125 million a year would flow into state coffers if racino gaming is approved.

And if $40 million a year of that is put toward a new Vikings stadium, it could go a long way in making a project happen, said Day, adding that construction of a stadium could support perhaps 7,000 jobs for three or four years.

While past efforts to get racino gaming approved have been unsuccessful, Day said it now appears a bill could receive Senate approval, while about 20 more votes are needed in the House.

“The biggest thing we’ve had to overcome is all the money on the other side,” Day said, referring to casinos operating on reservations, which he said have spent millions on counter lobbying efforts.

He said the difference between a new racino and the 18 casinos now operating in Minnesota is that a racino would provide the state with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue at a time when lawmakers are facing a $6 billion budget deficit.

“There’s a fairness issue,” Day said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555