As reported by MPR News, Running Aces, one of two horse racing tracks in Minnesota, has reportedly submitted a federal racketeering legal action against officials supervising three tribal casinos. In addition, it also claims that the Prairie Island Indian Community and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe are offering card games, which breaches federal and state gambling laws.

The lawsuit:

The horse racing track reportedly claims that Treasure Island Resort & Casino, located in Welch and owned by the Prairie Island, and Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley, both officially owned by the Mille Lacs Band, have “vastly expanded their own gaming operations in blatant disregard of clear criminal prohibitions.”

Relatedly, it also alleges that the aforementioned casinos are offering card games that do not comply with the compacts signed between tribes and the state of Minnesota, which breaches the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the federal law that was responsible for governing tribal gaming for the duration of 35 years, and state law.

As of 4 years ago, aka 2020, the casinos owned by the Mille Lacs Band have been providing Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em and Three Card Poker, both games not involved in their aforementioned compacts, according to the claims made by Running Aces. However, the lawsuit also added that the same situation occurred at Treasure Island until its compact was modified during the fall of 2023 to involve card games other than blackjack.

Furthermore, in addition to its racetrack, Running Aces manages a casino at its establishment located north of the Twin Cities metro. In addition, it commented that the significantly bigger tribal casinos are struggling to keep their dominance by warding off attempts of the track to extend table games.

Lawsuit – business-related RICO litigation:

The legal action was submitted according to the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, famous for federal criminal prosecutions including gangs. However, prosecutors’ lawyers also list the law as a core for civil cases unrelated to organized crime.

In this regard, during a phone interview with MPR News on April 16, an RICO attorney who has taught classes on the subject at the University of Minnesota Law School, Jeffrey E. Grell, commented that business RICO cases usually involve allegations of fraud. In addition, he added that in the case in question, Running Aces claims only that the practices of tribal casinos give its rivals an unjust upper hand.

Commenting on the RICO allegation in particular, Grell commented that Running Aces must demonstrate that the supposed non-legal activity of the tribes directly affected the track to suffer a loss of clients. On that note, he reportedly said: “For a damage analysis, you would have to show that a concrete monetary value was lost because of this alleged illegal gaming that was going on at Grand Casinos and Prairie Island.”

Explaining this, Grell added it would be difficult for the track to prove why it lost its clients, as there could be a multitude of reasons why clients decided to choose another casino. In this regard, he commented according to MPR News: “A gambler might just like one casino more than the other. The geographic location may be more convenient. The buffet might be cheaper.”

Response of the tribes:

A spokesman for one of the tribes, Prairie Island to be exact, wrote in an electronic mail to MPR News that the tribe has just now found out about the legal action and they don’t wish to make any comment. In addition, executives of the Mille Lacs Band failed to respond to requests for comment.

None of the accused submitted a legal retaliation to the legal action, according to MPR News.

Relatedly, the lawsuit comes on the heels of the fight that Canterbury Park, the second horse racing track in Minnesota, and Running Aces are waging against a proposal filed in the DFL-led Legislature to legalize sports wagering officially. Commenting on it, both horse racing tracks comment that the measure poses a threat to continued operations.

The legislation would permit tribes to enter into a partnership only with sports wagering firms like DraftKings, as well as provide stipends to the tracks. However, both tracks claim that the mentioned stipends are too below average.

Furthermore, both tracks are also in the midst of trying to fend off legislative suggestions to ban a fresh type of horse race wagering that received approval from the regulator not too long ago.