Freedom Foundation challenges racino claims

17 March 2010

A statewide non-partisan think tank has published a report challenging the claims made by Racino Now, the racino advocacy group led by former State Senator Dick Day, who serves as the group’s primary spokesperson.

The report, issued by the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota (FFM), said that Racino Now has greatly exaggerated the economic importance of the horse industry in Minnesota to win broader support for the racino proposal. Among the overstated items, according to the FFM report:

  • Racino Now frequently cites a “University of Minnesota study” as the basis for its economic impact claims, but the statistics actually come from a PowerPoint presentation made by a U of M faculty member.
  • Racino Now claims that there are 150,000 horses in Minnesota, but the actual figure, according to the MN Department of Agriculture is about 90,000.
  • Racino Now claims that each horse in the state generates about $6,000 per year in economic impact–but that figure actually comes from Pennsylvania, not Minnesota.
  • Racino Now says the total economic impact of the horse industry is over $1 billion a year, but it’s actually about half that–an estimated $541 million.
  • Racino Now claims Minnesota’s horse industry is in financial trouble, but statistics show that there are more horses in the state today than in 1982, and that the average number of horses per farm is the highest in modern record-keeping, indications of a thriving industry.

The report also notes that members of the horse industry are more affluent than other Minnesotans. While only 10 percent of all Minnesotans have annual incomes in excess of $105,000, about 25 percent of horse owners earn more than $125,000 a year.

Freedom Foundation spokesperson Annette Meeks said the report raises some important questions about the true benefits of the racino proposal.

“One must ask why, if the horse industry in Minnesota is thriving, it should be subsidized by the state,” she said. “Adding racinos to Minnesota will have little or no economic benefit to farmers, ranchers and other horse enthusiasts throughout the state.”