ST. PAUL – After spending months investigating the integrity of tribal gaming in the State of Minnesota, State Representative Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) said he has asked the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee to hold a hearing regarding the Minnesota Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division’s failure to do its job.
Minnesota House Public Safety Committee Chairman Tony Cornish (R-Good Thunder) has agreed to hold the hearing in the coming weeks.
Drazkowski said three full time agents are assigned to monitor the 18 tribal casinos across the state, yet the state’s three largest casinos – Mystic Lake, Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley – have not had a slot machine inspection since at least 2007. Several other casinos have also received little or no slot machine regulatory oversight since 2008 as well.
“To blame limited resources for not doing your job is an insult to the people of Minnesota,” Drazkowski said. “With our budget problems over the past few years, many police and sheriff’s departments have been forced to do more with less, but that hasn’t stopped them from writing traffic tickets. The Gambling Division’s task is to ensure that tribal casino visitors aren’t playing with the deck stacked against them, yet its state regulatory employees are refusing to even visit some of the casinos much less test a slot machine or monitor a blackjack table.”
In comparison, Wisconsin conducts audits at its casinos once every 18 months. Agents sample at least ten percent of the casino’s slot machines to ensure that integrity is being maintained. In comparison, Treasure Island and Jackpot Junction have had only one inspection since 2008, where agents checked eight machines or less.
Records show that in 2008, Minnesota’s Gambling Enforcement Division contacted officials from the Wisconsin Division of Gaming and asked about the procedures it uses for inspections, along with its procedure manual. Four years later, the Division still does not have a gambling enforcement procedure manual for slot machines, blackjack and casino financial audits, and in many cases, has been failing to even visit the casinos.
Drazkowski said Minnesota Indian Gaming Association officials have noted that tribal casinos are “self regulated” and that there are no problems. But Drazkowski remains skeptical considering there’s no proof, as Minnesota has not reviewed any casino audit since 2005.
“It’s easy to say you’re doing a wonderful job when no one bothers to check your work,” Drazkowski said. “We’re talking about regulation of what could be a $20 billion industry in this state, and not only does the gambling division not have an operations manual, it’s not even taking the time to ensure slot machine payout software is operating correctly.”
On Monday, Drazkowski discussed his concerns with Governor Dayton, who indicated the job performance of the Gambling Enforcement Division was unacceptable, and pledged to make changes within the agency. Drazkowski said he appreciated the Governor’s attention to the matter, but said the committee hearing will still take place in order for lawmakers and the public to learn why agents chose to ignore their job responsibilities.