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PoliGraph: Hahn's gambling revenue estimate on the high end

Inconclusive image.GIFBy Catharine Richert

Rob Hahn's plan to lower the deficit involves six new riverboat casinos on the Mississippi.

"The revenue to the state, cities and counties would be approximately $400 to $600 million annually," the Independence Party gubernatorial candidate said during a June 17 press conference.

Hahn's estimate isn't unreasonable, but it's on the high end.

The Evidence

Hahn's estimate is derived from Illinois, Iowa and Indiana gambling data, states that permit riverboat casinos. He concludes Minnesota could make an average of $428 million in new tax revenue annually.

A February 2010 report done by the Minnesota House of Representatives puts Hahn's claim in perspective. For instance, based on Illinois gambling data, the state could bring in as much as $135 million yearly if it allowed slot machines in bars.

Riverboat casinos would have more than just slot machines, so they would likely bring in more cash. But probably not as much as Hahn predicts, said Don Feeney, the Minnesota State Lottery's research and planning director. "It's not out of the question, but it's probably on the high side," said Feeney. "There are so many 'it depends' involved."

For example, a lot will depend on what type of games the casinos offer, and how many new customers they draw, Feeney said.

Furthermore, gambling in Illinois, Iowa and Indiana is different from gambling in Minnesota. Three riverboats right outside Chicago attract a lot of urban gamblers, for instance, inflating Illinois' revenue, Feeney said. And in Indiana and Iowa, riverboats get a lot of business from out of state. In Minnesota, there's no comparable place to put a boat that would draw that many gamblers across state lines, Feeney added.

The Verdict

Hahn's estimate isn't factually wrong, but it's high. Much will depend on where the boats are located, what kind of games they offer, and how many new customers they attract.

Hahn's claim rates an inconclusive.

Sources:

Minnesota House of Representatives, House Research Bill Summary of H.F. 646, accessed June 18, 2010

The American Gaming Association, 2010 State of the States: The AGA Survey of Casino Entertainment, accessed June 18, 2010

Minnesota House of Representatives Research Department, Estimates from Gambling Expansion, Feb. 18, 2010

Rob Hahn for Governor, Riverboat Gambling Analysis, June 18, 2010

Interview, Rob Hahn, Independence Party candidate for governor, June 18, 2010

Interview, Don Feeney, Research and Planning Director, Minnesota State Lottery, June 21, 2010

Interview, Tom Barrett, Executive Director of the Gaming Control Board, June 18, 2010


PoliGraph is a regular series of reports that checks the veracity of politicians' claims. It is a collaboration between Minnesota Public Radio News and the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota.

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