Tip boards face tough legal haul challenge

  • Article by: BAIRD HELGESON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 2, 2012 - 10:07 PM

The connection to pro sports could be problematic.

A House Republican proposal to finance a new Minnesota Vikings stadium relies on an expansion of pro sports gambling that would require a difficult and costly challenge to federal law.

House negotiators are banking on professional sports tip boards to bring in another $16 million in revenue each year.

Minnesota already allows charities to sell tip boards, but they are games of chance not tied to professional sporting events.

Under the House plan, customers could buy tip boards in permitted bars and restaurants for pro sporting events. In one kind of game, the ticket would include a couple numbers. If the numbers are in the final score of the sporting event, that customer would be a winner.

Congress passed a law in 1992 to prevent states or other government entities from getting involved in sports betting. Congress created an exemption for Oregon, Nevada, Montana and Delaware, which already permitted sports wagering.

In 1995, the Minnesota attorney general issued a report to the Legislature relating to a proposal to challenge the constitutionality of the federal law.

The lawsuit, the attorney general concluded, "would require the commitment of significant legal resources and is highly unlikely to succeed."

New Jersey voters gave their legislators the go-ahead last November to fight the ban on sports betting. New Jersey officials plan to mount their fight in Congress and in the courts. For years, politicians from the home of Atlantic City called the federal exemptions "arbitrary" and said the law infringed on the state's ability to raise state revenue and regulate gambling.

Minnesota's existing tip boards make up just a tiny fraction of the state's charitable gambling revenue. Minnesota charities took in nearly $1 billion from gambling last year, but only $7.2 million came from tip boards. That is the smallest amount of revenue from the five kinds of charitable gambling allowed in the state.

Baird Helgeson • 651-925-5044

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