MIGA to supporters: Speak out against slots in bars

17 February 2011

The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) is asking tribal employees, vendors and supporters to urge their state senators to oppose SF174 and SF 308, two bills that would authorize slot machines in more than 2,500 bars and restaurants across Minnesota.

MIGA issued its alert today in response to last week’s introduction of two neighborhood gambling bills in the Minnesota Senate. MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy said either measure would do immeasurable harm to Indian gaming and change the face of Minnesota neighborhoods forever.

SF 174, authored by Sen. Michelle Fischbach (SD14) would authorize up to ten slot machines (VLTs) in any liquor-licensed establishment that now offers charitable gambling, more than 2,500 locations statewide. Electronic bingo and pulltab machines would also be permitted.

SF 308, authored by Sen. Ingebrigtsen (SD11), would authorize up to 5 slots in these 2,500-plus locations.<

Both SF 174 and SF 308 would mean a huge expansion of gambling in Minnesota. The number of gambling venues would skyrocket from 19 destination casinos to more than 2,500 locations statewide. The number of slot machines available to gamblers would explode as well—from around 21,000 now to nearly 50,000, depending on which bill ultimately wins passage. It’s a regulatory and enforcement nightmare.

Under either bill, Indian gaming would suffer serious harm. Minnesota’s rural casinos, especially those in more remote areas, rely largely on their local markets for survival. If hundreds of mini-casinos open their doors in those markets, the tribes will suffer huge revenue losses. That means job cuts, cutbacks in vendor spending, tax revenue losses, and increased costs for counties and the state. The state couldn’t pick a more destructive approach if it deliberately set out to wipe out the gains tribes have made over the past two decades.

McCarthy also noted that Minnesota bars and eateries will be installing machines, not hiring more people. Neighborhood gambling is not labor intensive, so the jobs lost at tribal casinos will never be offset by new job creation in bars and restaurants.

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” McCarthy concluded. “Legislators need to hear from the thousands of people who work in tribal gaming and government. They need to hear from the thousands of Minnesota companies that sell goods and services to tribes. They need to hear from elected officials who recognize the value of Indian gaming to their local economies. There’s a cost to putting these tribal businesses at risk–a huge cost. Our legislators need to hear that side of the story.”