Racing Commission says no to electronic blackjack games

  • Article by: JENNIFER BROOKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 13, 2012 - 11:02 PM

Running Aces loses bid for high-tech card room tables.

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Minnesota Racing Commission Chairman Mark Ethen, center, met with Running Aces Harness Park executives and lawyers last month to discuss electronic blackjack tables.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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The Minnesota Racing Commission Thursday rejected a request by Running Aces Harness Park to add electronic games to its card room.

Commission members were sympathetic to Running Aces' argument that electronic blackjack tables would be a high-tech lure to draw new gamblers to the northern Anoka County track.

"I think everyone sitting here would like to approve this," said Commissioner Jacqueline Duncanson. "We would like to have racino. We would like to be able to have our racetracks have more ways to generate money for larger purses. We would like to support this. But what I would like in life is not always what is right or what is legal."

Both the Department of Public Safety and the commission's own staff had warned that the electronic blackjack tables Running Aces wants to install would be considered slot machines, devices that under state law are only legal at tribal casinos. Running Aces argued that the devices are simply a high-tech spin on card games.

In the end, the commission voted 5-4 to reject the proposal, over some strenuous objections.

"We have to recognize that electronic everything is just our future and we're way behind," said Commissioner Kris Sundberg, who urged members to approve the request and let the courts sort out the legal issues. "Just approve it, as is ... and let the chips fall where they may."

Where does Running Aces go from here?

"Probably to court," said attorney Thomas Keller III, speaking on Running Aces' behalf after the hearing. "This is not a new game. This is the game of blackjack, played on a table that has electronic components. But every aspect of the game of blackjack is unchanged here."

Keller called the argument that an electronic blackjack table is a slot machine "wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong,"

Commission members also held a closed-door session Thursday to discuss chief veterinarian Lynn Hovda, who faces complaints of mismanagement and an investigation by the Minnesota Office of Management and Budget in connection with her treatment of horses at the Canterbury Park racetrack on a sweltering July day.

Commission members announced only that they had investigated the matter and would be taking no further action.

Jennifer Brooks • 651-925-5049

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