Minnesota’s Running Aces Racino Adds More Casinos to RICO Suit

Minnesota harness racing track Running Aces has added two more casinos to a federal racketeering suit that claims tribal operators in the state are running “illegal” games.

Running Aces, Taro Ito, RICO lawsuit, Mystic Lake Casino, Little Six Casino, Shakopee
Running Aces president and CEO Taro Ito, above, says that all he wants to do is compete on a level playing field. But tribal interests dismissed his lawsuit as a stunt designed to “mislead the public” and “influence the legislature.” (Image: The Business Journals)

Last month, the Columbus, Minn.-based racino sued the Grand Casino Hinckley, Grand Casino Mille Lacs, and Treasure Island Resort. Running Aces claims they conduct class III card games that aren’t covered by their tribal-state gaming compacts, such as Three Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold’Em.

The Grand Casinos are owned by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Treasure Island belongs to the Prairie Island Indian Community.

In an amended complaint filed Tuesday, Running Aces added Mystic Lake and Little Six Casinos, which are owned by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC).

‘IGRA Violated’

The racino accuses all five casinos of violating the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), as well as state laws, by operating not only class III card games but also “video games of chance,” such as slots.

The tribes are permitted by the state to offer these games under the terms of their compacts. Minnesota was the first state to sign compacts with its federally recognized tribes after the enactment of IGRA in 1988.

Many believe lawmakers blundered by failing to negotiate revenue-sharing provisions. The state isn’t permitted to renegotiate any of these compacts without the tribes’ approval.

The Minnesota criminal code “specifically prohibits and makes illegal the playing of electronic video games of chance for any person,” as the lawsuit notes.

This is something the tribes “know only too well,” per the lawsuit. When Running Aces applied to the Minnesota Racing Commission to “modestly expand its ‘dealer assist’ table games,” the SMSC objected on the grounds that “video games of chance are not permitted in Minnesota,” the suit states.

‘No Merit’

“All that we have ever sought was to be treated fairly, compete on a level playing field, take advantage of improvements within the pari-mutuel environment, and operate without fear of being eliminated,” Running Aces president and CEO Taro Ito said in a statement to local CBS affiliate KSTP-TV. “It is our sincere desire to have our day in court and let the facts determine the outcome.”

The SMSC dismissed the Running Aces lawsuit as having “no merit,” labeling it a “desperate stunt to attack the good reputation of tribes and tribal gaming” in a statement to FOX 9.

All gaming conducted at Mystic Lake and Little Six Casinos complies with tribal law, federal law, and the gaming compact that was executed in 1989,” read the statement.

The SMSC claims Running Aces is seeking to “mislead the public and influence the final stages of the Minnesota Legislature’s 2024 session,” to prevent the passage of a bill that would hand a sports betting monopoly to the tribes.

The post Minnesota’s Running Aces Racino Adds More Casinos to RICO Suit appeared first on Casino.org.

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