Racino proposal heads to full Senate

What started out as a minor education-related bill Friday morphed into a measure allowing casinos at Minnesota’s two horse-racing tracks.

The so-called racino proposal now could receive a full Senate vote after it stalled earlier.

The Senate Finance Committee debated the issue more than two hours, causing a lengthy delay in a planned Senate tax debate, before approving the measure amid confusion and arguments.

Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, repeatedly tried to water down the racino provision, eventually failing amid disputes among Republicans. Hann and Sen. Richard Cohen, DFL-South St. Paul, unsuccessfully tried a variety of parliamentary maneuvers to stop the issue.

Hann is an outspoken opponent of expanding gambling.

However, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said the state builds roads and otherwise helps tribal casinos, but gets no money in return.

Racino supporters say allowing slot machines at the two race tracks would provide the state millions of dollars a year. Opponents say racinos would hurt tribal casinos and gambling is not the way to support state programs.

The racino issue has been discussed for years, but Gov. Mark Dayton says he is leery of it because tribes would keep the issue tied up in court for years.

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