Legislative Notebook: Horse Track Gaming Plan Headed To Governor

By Danielle Nordine

A plan to allow horse tracks to expand card betting and let casinos simulcast horse races is headed to Gov. Mark Dayton.

“The bottom line really is that it was a compromise between the tribes and the people who always wanted a racino,” Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, said. “We got the two sides to actually sit down at the same table and agree on a compromise.”

Racetracks and Indian tribes have long been at odds about the idea of allowing slot machines at racetracks, called a racino.

“Treasure Island (Resort and Casino) and the Prairie Island Indian Community through it would be a hit on their business,” Kelly said.

The plan would allow the state’s two horse-racing tracks to add more blackjack and poker tables while casinos that want to could broadcast horse races and take bets.

“The push is to increase the purses at Canterbury Downs,” Kelly said. “That’s what the racino issue has always been about.”

The amendment did not go through House committees, which frustrated some lawmakers. It was added as an amendment to another bill and passed 97-34 in the House Monday.

Dayton’s office said the governor is still reviewing the plan, but likely would agree to it.

How long left?

Lawmakers missed their self-imposed Monday adjournment deadline, and time is winding down until they must leave for the year.

The Minnesota Constitution allows the Legislature to meet for 120 days or until the first Monday after the third Saturday in May, whichever comes first, Senate Information Office Director Scott Magnuson said. This year, that deadline lands on May 21.

Tuesday was the 114th legislative day.

A legislative day is expended when the full House or Senate meets, either individually or on the same day.

Lawmakers also cannot pass bills on the last day allowed for adjournment – the 120th day or May 21.

A Minnesota legislative session is on a two-year cycle, and this is the second. The Legislature is not required to meet in the second year, but has since 1973, Magnuson said.

Westrom runs House

Rep. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, acted as speaker of the House for the second time Tuesday afternoon.

Westrom, who is blind, relied on a staff member to tell him what lawmakers were waiting to speak on the tax bill members were debating.

“It’s good to see you up there,” Rep. Connie Doepke, R-Orono, said to Westrom when she rose to speak.

Other lawmakers made similar comments.

Westrom ran the chamber once last year, likely the first blind person to do so in the country.