city yet willing to bet on casino
by Minnesota Public Radio
PAUL Minnesota - The scope of Gov. Pawlenty's casino proposal
is enormous. It's a $550 million development that would create at
least 3,000 jobs. There is also the promise of what the Pawlenty
administration calls a significant host fee to the community where
the casino is built, probably about $10 million a year.
when governments even utter hints of large-scale investment and
job creation, cities vigorously compete for the development.
so far that's not been the case with the state-tribal casino.
a handful of locations mentioned as a possible site is the city
of Burnsville. Burnsville City Manager Craig Ebeling says unlike
other proposed developments, the casino comes with a lot of unknowns.
when we're working, trying to attract businesses we know a lot about
those companies," Ebeling explains. "We're able to visit
their existing sites and have them tell us about what their business
is and get a good handle on what kind of facility they might be
contemplating building in our community, and we have a lot of information
on them. This is a little bit different situation. We're not sure
what the implications would be."
of Minnesota Extension Service economic development expert Michael
Darger says he's not surprised by the reaction from Burnsville and
other economic development officials.
economic development is something new for Minnesota communities
other than, of course, the American Indian bands and tribes. So
if there's a little caution on the part of economic developers it's
not surprising to me, because this is not something that they're
experienced with," Darger says. "It's not something that
their analytical tools are designed to help them assess."
Pawlenty's Chief of Staff Dan McElroy says what cities should be
thinking about is how a casino could spark further development.
at Cabela's in Owatonna on Interstate 35," McElroy says. "Look
what's developed around it. Two or three hotels, four restaurants,
a strip center, another museum. It has spurred development, tourist
impact, community interest around Owatonna. I think it's at least
possible that a casino facility would do the same thing in Minnesota."
a casino is different from a Cabela's. Consider, says Darger from
the U of M, the fact that casinos don't shut down.
know in my own community in northeast Minneapolis, just whether
Home Depot could stay open extra hours is a controversial issue.
And you look at a casino doing a 24/7 thing, there's certainly an
impact on the neighbors and the district. Those are fundamental
questions to a community," Darger says. "What does it
want to be and how does it want to manage activities like that?
And that takes time."
the casino debate has thus far failed to trigger a civic bidding
war for the development, it has fueled at least one pocket of citizen
of the Twin Cites near Forest Lake in Columbus Township, a group
of residents calling themselves "Columbus Concerned Citizens"
is convinced a harness horse racetrack and card room that's already
won approval for development is little more than a first step toward
leader of the citizens group, Don Steinke, says Columbus residents
should demand a better project for the site.
want it to develop with positive development that will bring good
paying jobs to this area," Steinke says. "We're looking
at this as not really the highest and best use for this property."
no community has yet publicly stepped forward in pursuit of the
proposed casino, the Pawlenty administration says it's been getting
a lot of inquires. Chief of staff McElroy says it's premature to
speculate on a site, even though Pawlenty's plan calls for opening
a temporary casino at the site of the permanent structure within
six months of legislative approval.