Know the rules, meet the players of e-tab session

By Allen Lund
Guest Column, The Minnesota Legionnaire

In May, the Minnesota House and Senate passed their Omnibus Tax Bill. It was signed into law by the governor.

Allen Lund

Included in the bill are major changes to electronic pulltabs and electronic linked bingo. Both games will now be required to be a reflection of their paper counterparts. There is tax relief of roughly $20 million that is meant to soften the blow of losing up to $300 million in net receipts.

How did we end up with this bill? I will tell you what I believe happened, but first I need to give a short lesson as to what politics is all about.

Rule 1: Cash (donations) is King.
Those with the cash get access and results. Charities are prohibited from giving to politicians; tribes are under no such prohibition. Add six or seven zeros to the first number and you will be in the neighborhood of what the tribes contribute annually.

Rule 2: Reread Rule 1.

Who were the players in this Greek tragedy?

Tribal casinos and the director of the Gambling Control Board:
For four years they did not make a sound regarding electronics. It was only after electronics started to gain traction that they voiced their objections. The tribes had three bites of the legal apple, and it was only after the third attempt did they find a court to side with them. That decision was rendered solely on two emails that the Gambling Control Board sent to manufacturers. It had nothing to do with the legality of the games currently being offered.

Gov. Tim Walz:
Soon after the tribes started to voice their concerns, he explained to them that there was nothing that could be done until the Minnesota Vikings stadium was paid for. He promised to take care of them after that, and he has delivered.

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan:
The lieutenant governor is a tribal member and has made it clear that those of us who are not tribal members owe a debt to them for past occurrences and being guests on their land.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman:
She believes that gambling charities are a rich Republican enterprise that preys on poor people in order to have someone else pay for their kid’s sports. I believe that she has confused us with the Minnesota Lottery, whose payout is 25 percent less than ours.

Rep. Zach Stephenson, Coon Rapids, author of the bill to neuter charities:
He wants to be the next governor and knows that he cannot do that without tribal money to back his campaign.

Rep. Aisha Gomez, chairwoman of the House Tax Committee:
She believes that charities have conspired to keep minority groups out of charitable gambling, even though we have nothing to do with who gets licensed. She has stated that her allegiance is not to the state but to the tribes.

Sen. Ann Rest, chairwoman of the Senate Tax Committee:
She has stated publicly that those of us with Legion/VFW post homes have “Taj Mahals” that we have built for our own pleasure instead of helping those in need.

What’s next? I will tell you what I think will ensue.
The politicians who pushed this through are counting on you forgetting this ever happened come the next election. Unless tribal casinos feel some pain, there will be further attempts to eliminate charitable gambling altogether. The people who did this to us believe that their actions were made in a vacuum, that there is nothing that can be done to them. I want them to know that nothing occurs in a vacuum, that there are consequences for every action.

I make this promise to you, there are two things that I will never do again. I will never again darken the door of a Minnesota casino. If you care about Minnesota charities and those we serve, I would ask you to do the same. We have 3,000 sites in Minnesota that offer charitable gambling, two horse track/card clubs and casinos across the state line that would welcome our support.

The other is that I will never vote for anyone who supported this undoing of charitable gambling. A hole that probably can never be repaired has been torn in a safety net that is nearly 80 years old. I would say that they should be ashamed of themselves, but I know that they have no shame.

Allen Lund is the gambling manager for Osseo-Maple Grove Post 172 and is the former director of Allied Charities of Minnesota. He is a member of the American Legion Department of Minnesota Legislative Committee.