November 11, 2004


Tim Pawlenty wants to tax Indian casinos.

The scenario could have been like this...

At the same moment, two men both wearing heavy trench coats and fedoras angled across their foreheads approached the table. The smaller of the two slid into the chair across from McCarthy, removed his fedora and set it next to an empty plate. McCarthy recognized the man they call "the Governor."

"Nice to see a man minding the store," he said casually referring to McCarthy's position as executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association.

"Those fries look good." Without waiting for acknowledgement, the Governor reached across the table and grabbed a handful of McCarthy's meal. Meanwhile the larger man larger as in "leviathan" moved behind McCarthy. McCarthy thought better than to ask if the man had a concealed carry permit for that bulge under his coat.

"What do you want?" said McCarthy with the timidity of a Minnesotan seeking tax relief.

"What makes you think I want anything?" replied the Governor, helping himself to another handful of McCarthy's fries. "I just sort of felt lucky like I was gonna come into some cash today. Know what I mean?" The Governor glanced around while munching on a fry. "Nice little gaming business you got going here. Shame if something were to happen to it."

McCarthy didn't respond, so the Governor went on.

"Yea, pretty busy here. Like the Mall of America. Nice place that mall. Got just about everything out there."

The Governor paused for effect. "Except a casino."

McCarthy started to push away from the table, but the long arm of the leviathan standing behind him restrained him. Resistance was futile. McCarthy eased his chair forward. "We have a deal," he muttered.

"Deals, smeals," said the Governor shrugging his shoulders. "You never read your history? There's always," he made finger quotes in the air, 'options.' "

...but no matter. Getting the state into the gambling business is a lousy idea.

But not as bad as horning in on the Indian gaming monopoly. Vice monopolies are the best form of, for lack of a better term, "reparations"; they're voluntary, yet lucrative enough to make a difference.

Posted by Mitch at November 11, 2004 06:48 AM | TrackBack

Mitch, I have to disagree here. Nobody should have a monopoly on anything. That isn't to say that the state should be running casinos, either, of course, but it is a bad idea to grant a perpertual monopoly to any group, particularly an ethnic group, regardless of any past injustices.

Posted by: Will Allen at November 11, 2004 09:44 AM

The only way I could support that kind of extortion would be if Pawlenty told the richer tribes he wouldn't threaten competition if they would share their wealth with some of the poorer tribes in the state (via schools, venture capital, or infrastructure, not individual handouts). And even then it would be a question of whether the ends justified the means (and the means give me the creeps).

Posted by: Steve Gigl at November 11, 2004 09:51 AM

I'm with Will. Coming from both California and now living in Washington I see Indian casinos having lots of perqs and lots of clout because of the money they rake in. If it's revenue for a taxable service or commodity, then it should be taxed like the rest.

Breaking the monopoly does not involve the government in gambling ( not like lotteries do ). Here in Washington you can have half a dozen casinos within ten miles of each other, but only the indian casinos get slots. The Indians payed through the nose to defeat a proposal that would have allowed other gambling establishments to have slots, but almost no word about it.

I don't gamble, don't like gambling, and would rather not have any casinos nearby. However, if you're going to allow them, let everyone play by the same economic rules. If the government starts picking favorites arbitrarily, then it's worse for everyone. ( Take sports stadiums as a different kind of example. )

Posted by: Aodhan at November 11, 2004 10:33 AM

Will, Aodhan --

I appreciate your sentiment about Indian gambling monopolies, but there is not much Minnesota can do about it. Indian gambling regulations are set by federal court precedent and federal legislation.

Now, if you want to argue that we should clear up questions about Indian soveriegnty, that's another question. For example, if tribes are soveriegn nations, should they be allowed to contribute to legislative campaigns?

However, Pawlenty's action is only circumstantially tied to the Indian issue. He's basically offering the legislature for sale -- give me $350 million and I'll see that favorable legislation is passed.

Image the governor going to Pfizer and offering to take down the state reimportation web site for $350 million or approaching the Direct Marketing Association with the offer to disband the "Do Not Call" list in exchange for $350 million. Hell, we damn near closed the budget gap right there. Bar and Restaurant owners might be willing to chip in a couple of hundred million to avoid a statewide smoking ban and put us over the top. Not a whole lot of difference.

With all due respect -- on this issue, we conservatives sound a lot like liberals on the estate tax issue -- They got it; I want it. Use government to get it for me.

Posted by: Craig Westover at November 11, 2004 12:14 PM

I am basically with reader Steve Gigi above.
The luck of the draw where your land is located shouldn't dictate whether you are a rich or poor tribe. Done right, steering the benefits to all native americans in Minnesota would be a coup. We would then have the nirvana of blue hairs who have excess money after their prescription drug costs voluntarily taking their excess cash to Indian Casinos and donating it to improve the welfare of all impoverished indians. What a country!

Posted by: Grotmonster at November 12, 2004 11:07 AM

The Indians should be taxed and it's not a Federal matter. They promised to pay for treatment of gambler addiction, they changed their minds. Crime has gone way on the routes going to the casinos. If I had my way I'd put up toll booths and charge a hundred bucks a pop. After years of raking in the dough and not dealing with these issues it's time someone took these people to the woodshed.

I wish the govener all the best luck.

Posted by: Mike at November 15, 2004 09:40 AM

Spelling, oops.

Posted by: MIke at November 15, 2004 09:44 AM
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