Horse industry, DFL lawmaker at odds over gambling

Horse industry, DFL lawmaker at odds over gambling

Horse industry, DFL lawmaker at odds over gambling

Leaders of the Minnesota horse racing industry say they feel under siege in some ways after being largely shut out of sports betting so far. Now, there’s a bill to prohibit new “historical horse racing” machines before they’re even in place and new restrictions on card games.

“This is a ridiculous bill that, if implemented, will put us out of business,” says Aaron Bedessem, vice president of marketing and operations at Running Aces.

The Minnesota Racing Commission last week approved 500 “historical horse racing” machines for both Running Aces and Canterbury Park.

“Some people have accused me of having it out for the tracks,” said Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, as he introduced his bill. “That’s not true. I have no problem with the tracks. I do have a problem with the racing commission going beyond its statutory authority.”

But Stephenson’s bill also puts restrictions on “stadium” card games that expand the number of players at a table by allowing them to use electronic terminals.

“This bill takes away things that both us, Running Aces and Canterbury, have been doing for over 20 years,” Bedessem said at a news conference before a House Commerce Committee hearing on the bill.

Some in the horse industry see Stephenson’s bill as punitive and retaliatory for the tracks seeking approval for new games through the Minnesota Racing Commission rather than the legislature.

“I really want to give him the benefit of the doubt but it sure seems retaliatory,” says Running Aces CFO Tracie Wilson.

A vote on the bill is expected Monday evening when the House Commerce Committee resumes after a floor session.