Lawsuit Claims That Tribal Casinos in Minnesota Offered Illegal Games

  • The lawsuit states that the casinos offered games not permitted by their compacts
  • Running Aces claims that the tribal casinos had an “illegal and unfair advantage”
  • Lawmakers are currently considering legalizing sports betting in the state
Casino dealer shuffling cards
One of Minnesota’s two racetracks has filed a federal lawsuit against three tribal casinos in the state claiming that they illegally offered certain card games. [Image:]

Looking for answers

Tensions are high in the Minnesota gambling space after one of the two horse racing tracks in the state filed a federal lawsuit against three tribal casinos.

racetrack is seeking damages and to put a stop to the games in question

Running Aces, which also has a casino on-site, claims in Tuesday’s lawsuit that certain establishments offered Class III card games like Ultimate Texas Hold’em and Three Card Poker when they weren’t allowed to do so under their gaming compacts.

The lawsuit claims this gave them an “illegal and unfair advantage” over Running Aces, which is legally able to offer card games. The racetrack is seeking damages and to put a stop to the games in question.

Trying to compete

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act complaint names executives from the Treasure Island Resort and Casino, Grand Casino Mille Lacs, and Grand Casino Hinckley.

In a statement regarding the legal action, Running Aces CEO and President Taro Into said that his company just wants a level playing field and to not have to fear going out of business as the tribal casinos all generate significantly more revenue each year than the racetrack. He said that the company wants to have a fair hearing in a court to outline the facts of the case.

The Prairie Island Indian Community owns Treasure Island, while the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe runs the other two casinos.

The lawsuit says that some of the tribal casinos have battled hard to stop Running Aces from expanding its gambling offering. It mentioned a letter sent to the governor and the Minnesota Racing Commission from Mille Lacs that tried to block Running Aces from expanding its “dealer assist” table games.

A complex landscape

This lawsuit comes at a time when lawmakers in Minnesota are carefully considering legalizing sports betting in collaboration with tribes. Five weeks are left in this year’s legislative session and the state’s racetracks are pushing to get in on the action. They claim that excluding them will jeopardize their future and that the currently proposed stipends are not sufficient.

The racetracks are also hoping to start offering historical horse racing (HHR) machines that are popular in other states like Kentucky. While the Minnesota Racing Commission voted to legalize them, lawmakers shortly thereafter introduced legislation that explicitly bans HHRs as they are too similar to slot machines that tribes have exclusive control over.

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