My wife and I visited relatives in Minnesota. Along with the 10,000 lakes and lush green trees, we saw our future if the gambling door is opened in Utah.
A few years ago, the state allowed pari-mutuel betting on horses. The U.S. Congress later allowed the Indian reservations to operate gambling casinos in states that had any form of gambling. Since this was a federal mandate, there should be no question that the same scenario would not happen in Utah. This point is beyond discussion.Minnesota citizens now see this coming back to haunt them. We saw one of the larger casinos near Mille Lacs, Minn. It rivals anything Wendover has to offer. The casino operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Expansion of the building and live Las Vegas-style entertainment are just some of the things taking place right now.
An Associated Press article in the Brainerd, Minn., daily paper, noted the concern state government officials felt over the lack of sufficient regulation in place over the casino operations. The governing body is the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Bureau admittedly was unfamiliar with casino regulation and undermanned to perform such a task. The possibility and probability that organized crime would become involved was of prime concern to state officials.
The other realization was the tremendous amount of money that went into these casinos on Indian reservations and stayed. The profits do not pay for public education, public roads or any other public infrastructure. In fact, we drove over state roads that had to be widened to accommodate increased traffic. It is doubtful if casino profits were donated to fund public road expansion.
Here also is a strange twist. The operators of a local pari-mutuel track approached the Mille Lacs Indian Council to purchase his operations. The operators were told that the Indians were making money hand over fist and didn't need the horse-racing millstone around their necks.
The horse-racing officials should ask themselves where the general public would rather spend their gambling funds. Under a hot sun at a horse track, or under the cool lights in front of a million dollar payoff?
I hope the citizens of Utah will not allow the state to be herded down a road that takes us where we would rather not be. Let us be wiser than others.
Jerry R. Pace