News and STORIES

Little known Minnesota law makes it illegal to bet on horse racing from home

Author: Clint Goodman
Published: Tuesday September 08, 2020

Imagine not being able to bet on a horse race in the year 2020? Now that you’ve had a chance to digest that bit of troubling information, take in the fact that due to Covid-19 and a little known horse betting law, you are unable to bet on a race 20 miles from your house unless you are physically at the track.

Believe it or not, that is exactly what is happening in Minnesota, where Jay Leitzau is unable to place a wager on a race due to not being physically at the track. Again, this is in part due to the ongoing restrictions brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, which forces some local tracks in several states to only let in a fraction of the people they normally would.

Unfortunately for people like Jay, that means he can’t place a bet on a race unless he successfully manages to be one of the few spectators in attendance. Now that’s not easy to do, especially since seats are on a first come first serve basis and people’s schedule vary day by day, which leaves a lot of gamblers out in the cold.

In fact, according to The Minnesota Racing commission” off-track wagering on races outside of Minnesota jumped significantly as the pandemic took hold. These numbers represent the total amount of Advance Deposit Wagers collected by third-party companies' month to month. In April, Minnesota saw a 93 percent increase in ADW betting by its residents from the same period the previous year.”

The law that prevents people like Jay from betting in Minnesota was passed in 1983 to put a stop to illicit gambling operations and to bring people to The Canterbury grounds to place their bet there. Lawmakers did attempt to rectify this in 1991 by passing a law that allowed off track betting, but the states Supreme Court declared the bill unconstitutional in 1992, thus leaving some gamblers out of luck again.

"A Minnesota resident can bet on Florida races, but they can't bet on Minnesota races? Doesn't make sense," said longtime trainer from Canterbury, Darnell Rhone, who disagrees with the overly restrictive law "We're discriminating a little bit. It should be for all."

Gamblers aren’t the only one’s hurting from this rule however, as people that work at The Canterbury grounds themselves are feeling a dip in the revenue stream also. This means that facilities are losing revenue due to more fans not being allowed to attend races and by the state law in Minnesota that disallows off ground betting

If nothing else, this law and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has backed a lot of facilities against the wall. It has also left a struggling industry with one less revenue stream to rely on, which is crucial to their survival during these tough economic times. That’s why lawmakers need to find a way to correct this law and allow fans to gamble from the comfort of their own home.

In the end, who is it really hurting if people bet outside of the facility? In fact, wouldn’t that be the responsible thing to do during the pandemic? Shouldn’t state officials be encouraging people to stay home right now? Instead however, Minnesota is actively turning a day at the track into a game of risk and once again criminalizing gambling in a way that is beyond unconstitutional.