Everyone be forewarned — sports betting in Minnesota is illegal. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division warns sports fans and everyone else that their officers will be more vigilant in suppressing illegal sports gambling at such establishments in Minnesota as bars.
Terry Kelley, an alcohol and gambling enforcement special agent, told reporters September 7 at the state’s public safety offices in St. Paul, including the MSR, “Sports betting is illegal. It is illegal in Minnesota.
“One reason why sports wagering is illegal is because it has no consumer protection,” Kelley said. “How do you know that what you are doing is fair? How do you know that if you win, you are going to get paid? Who are the people you are dealing with, and what happens to you if you can’t pay? There are a lot of aspects that goes into that involvement.
“As the football season begins, our agency will receive more calls about illegal sports wagering all across Minnesota,” explained Kelley. “The fact is there is no exception — sports wagering is illegal.”
Sports contests that involve picking winners and involve prizes are legal “as long as no money changes hands,” said Kelley, adding that betting on games between friends — “private bets” — are legal as well.
Don Weinberger, a recovering compulsive sports better, admitted that it started harmless, but he once lost $900 on a football game. “It took a toll on me and became a full-time job. I was betting every single day. It cost me almost everything, changed my personality and behavior.”
“It can happen to anybody,” Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance Executive Director Cathie Perrault affirmed. She later told the MSR that there is no typical gambler, and gambling addiction cuts across racial, ethnic and economic lines.
Asked how much newspapers contribute to such illegal betting (“Today’s Line” are found every day in sports sections, sports radio, and college and pro football pre-game shows that promote favorites and underdogs and by how much – the point spread), Kelley said that there is nothing illegal about this information being disseminated.
Weinberger, however, said that it can be a contributing factor: “Today it doesn’t affect me anymore, but that was my lifeline when I was doing it,” he told the MSR. “[It] was like my bible — I had to have it.”
“The NFL will conclude its season in Minneapolis” next February with the Super Bowl, and the American Gaming Association estimated that nearly five billion dollars was wagered on last year’s game, with most of it illegal, said Kelley.
“We want people to know that we are going to increase our efforts to try to prevent [illegal] sports wagering happening in Minnesota during that time. It might be one of us you’ll run into…online,” he said.
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Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.