Also known as:
Department of Gaming
Function: The duties of the commissioner of the Gaming Department are: to sit as a voting member of the Minnesota racing
commission subject to section 240.02, subdivision 1, the gambling control board, and the lottery board; to study the extent and status of legal and illegal gambling in Minnesota, and social, economic, and legal problems which may result from legal and illegal gambling; and to report annually to the governor and legislature on the activities of the commissioner, including studies under clause (2), and recommended changes in laws dealing with legal and illegal gambling.
(The information below is taken from Page 39 of "Gambling in Minnesota: A Short History, by John Williams, legislative analyst in the House Research Department, March, 2005)
Department of Gaming Comes and Goes
The 1989 lottery law was passed as part of an omnibus gambling bill that also addressed charitable gambling reform, betting on off-season simulcasting at Canterbury Downs, and authorization for tribal-state gaming compacts. With gambling becoming a prominent and recurring political issue, there was growing sentiment to "get a handle on" gambling policy by creating a super-agency to control all state involvement in gambling.
Various proposals in 1989 to create an overall gambling agency in state government envisioned a single public official with power to set gambling policy and carry out the state's varying responsibilities as both regulator and operator. Repeatedly the proposal was described as creating a "gambling czar." But at the same time concerns were expressed that concentrating that much authority into the hands of one person would lead to one form of gambling being favored over others.
What the legislature eventually enacted was a governance structure that was guaranteed to disappoint almost everyone who was looking for a strong centralized authority over gambling. It converted the racing commission, gambling control board, and newly created state lottery into divisions of a new Department of Gaming headed by a commissioner appointed by the governor. But the new commissioner's duties were limited to being an ex-officio member of the racing commission, gambling board, and the new lottery board. The commissioner would be one vote out of nine on the racing commission, one out of seven on the gambling control board, and one out of seven on the advisory-only lottery board. The racing commission and gambling board would continue essentially as autonomous agencies with their own staffs, and the lottery administration would have a degree of independence unprecedented in state government.
Gov. Perpich appointed former Minneapolis police chief Tony Bouza as the first gambling czar, but Bouza quickly realized that few czars have ever had such limited authority. Despite being often referred to as overseeing state gambling activities, his actual role was more as a public commentator than as an overseer. In office, Bouza was notable in leading much of the criticism and reform of charitable gambling but played only a minor role in horse racing regulation and almost no role in the operation or governance of the lottery or in the regulation or suppression of any other form of legal or illegal gambling.
It came almost as a relief when within two years of his appointment Bouza recommended that his department and position be abolished. The legislature quickly complied in the 1991 session, but did not accept his corresponding recommendation that a state body composed of gambling's various elements be created to coordinate gambling policy.
One element of the governmental reorganization in the 1989 law proved to be more long lasting. The legislature created a division of gambling enforcement in the Department of Public Safety to conduct background investigations on applicants for charitable gambling licenses, horse racing licenses, and lottery retailer and vendor contracts, as well as to enforce laws against illegal gambling. Later the division was merged with the division of liquor control to create a division of alcohol and gambling enforcement, which continues to function today.
Commissioner: Tony Bouza
Record last updated:
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