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Gambling: Will Minnesota get football tip boards with the new Vikings stadium?

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It turns out Minnesota may get an answer sooner rather than later on whether it can use sports-themed games in the state's expansion of charitable gambling.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shipp heard arguments in New Jersey last week in that state's suit against the 1992 federal law banning sports betting in all but a handful of states. New Jersey is not among that handful. Bloomberg is reporting Shipp has said he'll rule on the case by the end of the month.




"We're certainly watching what's happening in New Jersey," says Minnesota Gambling Control Board executive director Tom Barrett. "We're very anxious to see how the judge rules." Barrett says that even if New Jersey wins, appeals could delay a resolution, and it may be some time before lawyers in the Attorney General's office sort out what the sports betting case means for Minnesota.

The state got into sports-related gambling last spring. The same law that authorized electronic pulltabs and linked bingo to pay for a Vikings stadium also legalized sports-themed tipboards. The legislature OKed them hoping to make up for a tax structure that fell short of reform charitable gambling operators sought.

But while legal under state law, the Minnesota Gambling Control Board declined to authorize the tip boards in June, citing questions about whether federal gambling law allowed them.

Minnesota is NOT one of the states authorized for sports betting. Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Nevada got grandfathered in when the feds took action against sports betting decades ago. Nonetheless, tipboards are a common, and illegal, Minnesota pastime, particularly in bars during football season.

In New Jersey, the state thinks legalizing straight-up sports book betting at its racetracks and casinos could be a billion dollar business and give the state $100 million in tax revenue.

Pro football, basketball, baseball and hockey, as well as the NCAA, sued to block betting on their games, citing the potential for corruption if gamblers try to rig the games. The U.S. Department of Justice joined the suit against New Jersey last month.

Minnesota isn't even seriously looking at outright sports betting. Yet. The stadium law so far only permits wagers on the actual digits related to a sports event, and not on the outcome of the game. State law also exempts sports-themed tip boards from the "combined net receipts tax," which means they aren't being earmarked to pay for the Vikings stadium.