Casino Proposals Intensify In Upper Midwest

Casino gaming is becoming a hot topic in the upper Midwest, with a privately-managed, state-owned facility being proposed in Minnesota and three Indian groups in Wisconsin joining forces with an ailing Greyhound track in a casino proposal.

In Minnesota, legislation for a new privately managed casino that would be owned by the state is likely to attract a great deal of attention in the upcoming session of the state Legislature. Proponents say it could produce $100 million a year for tax relief, education, affordable housing, new sports stadiums or any other purpose lawmakers chose

According to the real estate Website GlobeSt.com, the Minnesota casino proposal is the brainchild of Nevada casino owner Don Laughlin. Along with a number of Minnesota legislators, Laughlin is critical of the monopoly in place for Indian casinos in the state. They are reportedly attempting to get the legislature to either authorize a state-owned casino, or schedule a statewide vote next year on a constitutional amendment to authorize one

GlobeSt.com reported that Laughlin, a former Minnesotan who owns and operates a large casino resort in Laughlin, NV (a town named after him), began promoting his idea for a casino run by a private operator last spring. He proposes a casino that would pay 90 percent of its net profits to the state, estimating the state could rake in $100 million a year.

But opponents promise that it is a controversial, emotionally charged measure that would not likely achieve success, but would distract lawmakers from addressing more important issues, such as such as tax cuts and health care.

Meanwhile, the application by three Wisconsin Ojibwe bands and the owners of the St. Croix Meadows Greyhound Racing Park is being considered by the U.S. Interior Department, which is expected to make a decision soon.

GlobeSt.com reported that the recent appointment of Wisconsin's Republican governor, Tommy Thompson, to secretary of health and human welfare in the Bush administration could hurt chances for an Indian-owned casino in Hudson, about 30 miles east of the Twin Cities.

The Website reported that the Wisconsin proposal could help Laughlin's planned casino because a Hudson casino would draw Twin Cities gamblers across the border and Minnesota lawmakers would be more likely to support a state-owned casino to keep the business at home

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