Minnesota Casino Powerhouse Faces Racketeering Suit Over Illegal Games


In the heart of the Midwest, Minnesota’s thriving casino scene is facing a lawsuit that could change everything. Columbus’ esteemed Running Aces racetrack has charged three casino heavyweights with a federal racketeering suit. The claim? That these gambling titans – Grand Casino Hinckley, Grand Casino Mille Lacs, and the Treasure Island Resort – have been profiteering from illegal games.

Running Aces contends that these glitzy giants contravene both Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and state legislations. The sticking point revolves around Class III card games – with an emphasis on Three Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em – activities allegedly not enshrined in their tribal-state gaming compacts. The casinos under scrutiny owe their operations to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and the Prairie Island Indian Community.

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Specifically, the lawsuit argues that, under Minnesota criminal law, card games sans blackjack are scribed illegal, unless played within a card room tied to a parimutuel licensed racetrack. A sidebar to this claim notes that Treasure Island had revised its compacts six months prior to include sanctions for these other casino card games. Yet, according to the lawsuit, infractions had been committed by proffering unauthorized games ahead of this alteration.

Running Aces alleges that this gaming misstep has siphoned off their clientele. As the casinos drew players towards Class III card games, Running Aces suffered resulting losses of revenue and profit. The casino giants’ success came at a cost to Running Ace’s income stream, with losses not only confined to their gaming tables but their ancillary earnings from food, accommodation, and live entertainment.

The lawsuit leans on the weighty Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act in light of these claims. Born in 1970, this federal law was designed to dismantle organized criminal activity and racketeering. The Act can also be a tool in civil suits when organization’s actions disrupt fair competition.

This lawsuit continues to fan the flames of a long-standing grudge between the tribal casino operators and Minnesota’s horse racing industry. Racetracks are voicing strong opposition to a bill currently under legislative scrutiny that may legalize sports betting exclusively for tribal operators. The latter might seem appeased when offered stipends from this novel industry, but they argue this won’t cover the cost of damages incurred by their businesses.

The tribal operators aren’t sitting quiet either, backing a bill that could flip the recent decision on legalizing historical horse racing machines (HHRs). These terminals bear too close a resemblance to slot machines, and in their eyes, overstep the tribal monopoly on Class III casino gaming in the state.

Running Aces doesn’t hold back its grievances, pointing out that the tribes have attempted to stymie its push to expand gaming operations legally. A tattletale from the vigils of the Mille Lacs Band points to a plea to the Minnesota Racing Commission (MRC). The tribe opposed Running Aces’ request to marginally extend its ‘dealer assist’ table games, the complaint states. Time ticks on as we await the tribes’ response to this lawsuit.