Lobbying efforts of two pro-gambling groups in Minnesota will soon crank up another notch, and the state Legislature should respond with an open mind and vote to support both of them, even if it means going against their own beliefs and individual values. Why? Because we need them to, the state needs them to.
Profit Minnesota wants to expand on and modernize current charitable gambling in bars and restaurants all over the state. And the state's two harness racing venues -?Running Aces and Canterbury Park - want slot machines installed at their facilities.
Both say millions of dollars will be generated by their proposals. Both say their proposals will create jobs. And both say every Minnesotan will benefit from their plan in some way, shape or form. The question is, will there be enough support from the Legislature for both measures to pass in this year's session? Or either of them?
What we have here is two dogs fighting over the same bone. There's a chance that both might come out winners. There's also a chance that both will fail miserably. Still, both groups have expressed sincere optimism that they will be given the green light this year. Perhaps it's blind optimism, but considering the state's financial quandary - a $5 billion deficit - it's a good bet at least one of these camps will be celebrating next month.
These two groups have made pitches to the Legislature in past years and both have been shot down. But our legislators need only look at the size of the deficit to be reminded that these certainly are different circumstances. Isn't it time to give them their due?
Those who oppose expanded gambling in Minnesota say they can't bring themselves to throwing support behind non-guaranteed revenue. But even if the revenue numbers proposed by the two groups are a bit on the high side, the state shouldn't write these ideas off.
While it is important for legislators to hold true to their own values, each knows the state desperately needs help. So far, with less than a month left in the 2011 session, all we really know about a possible solution to the deficit is that one side wants to raise taxes and the other wants to cut spending - the sides are separated by a canyon of doubt and dismay. Taxes alone aren't the answer. Cuts alone aren't the answer. If the state really wants to spare its citizens, why not sign off on proposals that at least have the potential to benefit them, instead of ones that do nothing but harm them?
Maybe legislators believe supporting such legislation is akin to selling their soul to the devil. But at this point, when you consider the painful alternatives, it's about time the state rolls the dice.