“Running Aces Challenges Top Minnesota Casinos Over Alleged Illegal Gaming Activities”


In a dramatic twist to a contentious legal dispute, Minnesota-based horse racing track, Running Aces, has pulled the reins on two more casino establishments. The thrust of this latest development involves a federal racketeering suit that alleges certain tribal operators in Minnesota are overseeing illegal gaming activities.

Taro Ito, president and CEO of Running Aces, insists his aim is simply to compete on even footing. Nevertheless, tribal representatives have deemed his lawsuit as nothing more than a move to deliberately mislead the public and influence state legislation – a dramatic play, some suggest.

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A month prior, Running Aces had cast its legal gauntlet at Grand Casino Hinckley, Grand Casino Mille Lacs, and Treasure Island Resort, all major entertainment hubs. In the eye of the storm is the contention these establishments orchestrate class III card games not specifically sanctioned by their tribal-state gaming compacts. The gambling styles in question include popular pastimes such as Three Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold’Em.

Ownership of the Grand Casinos falls under the jurisdiction of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, while the Prairie Island Indian Community claim Treasure Island as part of its territory.

Making its recent headlines, Running Aces filed an amended complaint naming Mystic Lake and Little Six Casinos, both owned by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) as additional defendants.

Apart from being charged with running class III card games, these five casinos are accused of breaching the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), as well as state laws, via their operation of electronic “video games of chance,” such as slots.

While Minnesota tribal-state compacts permit tribes to host these games, the controversy is primarily due to the fact that Minnesota was the first state to execute such compacts following the introduction of IGRA in 1988. It is suggested by some, however, that lawmakers may have fumbled by not including provisions concerning revenue sharing in these agreements.

According to the lawsuit, the tribes are knowingly crossing lines. It states the Minnesota criminal code explicitly forbids the operation of stance on these matters was highlighted when Running Aces proposed a modest enlargement of its “dealer assist” table games, and SMSC lodged an objection.

Expressing his determination to have his side heard, Taro Ito stated that all Running Aces has ever advocated for is fair treatment, a level playing field, and to enhance the pari-mutuel environment without the looming threat of potential dismissal.

The SMSC, however, was dismissive, stating the Running Aces lawsuit holds “no merit”, characterizing it in part as an effort to tarnish the reputation of tribes and tribal gaming. In a prepared statement, the SMSC reaffirmed that all gaming at Mystic Lake and Little Six Casinos complies with tribal, federal, and State regulations as agreed upon in the 1989 compact.

The SMSC additionally accused Running Aces of intending to mislead the public, suggesting the lawsuit is a calculated move to sway the conclusion of the upcoming 2024 Minnesota Legislature’s session. Behind this, says SMSC, is the alleged attempt to deter the approval of a bill securing a sports betting monopoly for the tribes.