Sports Betting

Is the legalization of sports betting in Minnesota in jeopardy after a racetrack sued three state tribal casinos?

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Minnesota horse racing pic

The Running Aces Casino, Hotel & Track announced last week that they had filed a lawsuit against three Minnesota Tribal Casinos. This lawsuit was sent to the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. Running Aces claims that these three casinos violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Also known as the RICO Act. 

A bill was introduced this month that outlaws historical horse racing (HHR) at tracks in Minnesota. Rep. Zack Stephenson’s legislation retaliates against a Minnesota Racing Commission decision to allow HHR this summer. 

Running Aces is seeking treble damages for the harm caused to their business. Treble damages are civil punitive damages awarded in specific cases to plaintiffs. They argue that alleged legal activity did not allow them to have a competitive share in revenue. 

Does the legalization of sports betting in Minnesota stand a chance after this recent lawsuit by Running Aces?

The basis behind Running Aces’ lawsuit is the three tribal casinos have failed to meet the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. These casinos have been offering card games that are not covered by their state-tribal gaming compacts. Three Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold’Em were the two card games in question. 

Their lawsuit claims the Miles Lacs Band of Ojibwe offers games beyond blackjack. They operate the Grand Casino Hinkley and Grand Casino Miles Lacs. Blackjack is supposed to be the only card game offered at these casinos. However, Three Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold’Em were being played. 

Additionally, Running Aces is suing Treasure Island Resort and Casino. Until October 2023, they were also illegally offering card games other than blackjack. However, the Prairie Island Indian Community and Minnesota amended their compact to allow cargames other than blackjack. This illegal activity has cost Running Aces “substantial revenue and profits”. 

Ultimately, this lawsuit will not help the state’s effort to get sports gambling fully legalized. This is now the third year in a row that Zack Stephenson has led the efforts for sports betting legislation. For sports gambling to be fully legalized, lawmakers, tracks, and tribes need to come together and reach an agreement.