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Senate committee kills racino bill

Racino supporters have been trying to get a bill through the legislature for years, to no avail.
Racino supporters have been trying to get a bill through the legislature for years, to no avail.

A bill that would've allowed Minnesota's horse-racing tracks to install slot machines died yesterday following a 8-5 rejection by the Senate Government Innovation and Veterans Committee.

The bill would've used the additional gambling revenues, which were estimated to be between $87 and $120 million per year, for college scholarships for students who earn at least a 3.0 grade point average.

But legislators on both sides of the aisle expressed reservations about expanding gambling in Minnesota, raising the question of whether there's enough legislative support to approve the use of electronic pulltabs to pay for a new Vikings stadium.

Regarding the racino bill, Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, D-Minneapolis, said she "cannot support the expansion of gambling to educate our kids." Across the aisle, Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, said "I think it's not in the best interests of the state to expand [gambling] farther."

But racino supporters are undeterred by yesterday's vote. Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said he and other racino supporters "kind of tested the water and found out where the rocks are." In fact, racino lobbyist and former Senate GOP leader Dick Day said he's already working on a new iteration of the racino bill.

Racino supporters have been trying to get a bill through the legislature for the better part of a decade. Though the House passed a racino bill in 2004, the proposal has never made it through both chambers.


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