In what a state agency calls a first, gambling law enforcement investigators say they spotted an illegal betting duo roaming casinos in the Twin Cities area and for a fee, play slots for gamers watching a TikTok livestream in hopes of getting rich.
A Minnesota Alcohol and Gaming Law Enforcement Division agent revealed in a filing this week that two men ran their bookmaker business remotely while at Mystic Lake Casino in Prior. Lake and at the Treasure Island Resort & Casino just outside of Red Wing in violation of a law that prohibits placing bets on someone else’s behalf.
Nicole Roddy, spokeswoman for the agency, acknowledged the ongoing investigation and added that “prior to this matter, no other cases of this nature had been reported to us”.
The search warrant affidavit is for a 39-year-old man from Edina who, according to the agency, collects via cash applications an initial subscription fee of $5.99, then $25 which he keeps for each $100 deposited for bets, which he streams live on the video-sharing app. ICT Tac. The affidavit indicates that the man’s younger brother is sometimes involved. Neither man has yet been charged with a crime, and the Star Tribune does not usually name suspects until they are charged.
The affidavit filed Tuesday asked the Hennepin County District Court for permission to access, among other things, information about the man’s monetary transactions dating to October and other financial documents, history login to cash app and customer service notes.
The deposit and archived videos on the man’s main TikTok account, which boasts 165,000 followers worldwide, indicate that the betting operation has been ongoing at at least one of the casinos for three months. One session ended just before dawn on Thursday.
The affidavit does not specify how much money is made or lost during a live streaming session. Video highlights archived on the man’s TikTok page show wads of cash displayed and slot machines opening occasional big jackpots, including one last month that topped $15,000.
The American Gaming Association, which represents sportsbooks and casinos across the country, said it had never heard of such a gaming system. The association’s vice president for government relations , Alex Costello, said that “actions like this violate casino anti-money laundering protocols and pose a threat to our financial system.”
The administrators of both casinos seem to be in the TikTok bookmaker market. On January 12, the man spoke live about being kicked out of Mystic Lake on a previous visit, according to the affidavit. That same day, he was in his car outside Treasure Island and said he “just received a permanent trespassing notice,” the affidavit reads.
Eric Pehle, longtime spokesperson for the Prairie Island Indian community and its casino, said that “in all my work with the casino, this is new to me. In many ways, it’s shocking, and in many ways it’s not.”
Pehle said the Prairie Island Gaming Commission began receiving information about the TikTok bookmaker on Jan. 6, banned him from the casino on Jan. 9, and kicked him out again on Jan. 12.
“When we become aware of potential threats that could harm the business or compromise its integrity, we act quickly,” said Clayton Tix, executive director of the commission. “This is exactly what the Gambling Commission did when we learned that an individual was using his social media platforms to place bets for others.
“While social media influencers are permitted to broadcast from within our property, placing bets for others is not.”
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Gaming Enterprise, which operates Mystic Lake, said in a statement on Friday that it allows live streaming “when limited to the guest and their own party.” [and] are prohibited from engaging in any betting activity that results in profiting from the bets of others.”
The alleged TikTok player declined to be interviewed on Friday night except to say he plays with his own money, which he said he made clear on several occasions during his live stream. State officials declined to comment on specifics of the case, citing the ongoing investigation ahead of possible charges.
However, his agent’s affidavit details how the off-limits business gained followers:
A Las Vegas tipster contacted the state on Jan. 9 to report that a man and his brother were live-streaming from casinos to various TikTok accounts and collecting money from followers to play slot machines. The man “takes a share of the money paid to him by his supporters, who [he] refers to a deposit or donation, but refers to the subscribers’ total wager. »
Another tipster was the mother of a 16-year-old from Pennsylvania who caught wind of the TikTok bookmaker on the night of January 11 “just before her [son] sent… money to play.”
The state agent said she watched the Treasure Island casino live stream for herself that night, and “I observed [him] conduct the same illegal gambling activity” that the Las Vegas tipster described.
“It was obvious that [he] was…betting for his subscribers during this livestream,” the state agent wrote in his affidavit.[He] would verbally ask players by name which slots they wanted [him] play for them.”
At one point, a player in the TikTok chat asked if the minimum bet was $100 or $200. In an apparent attempt to avoid being exposed as placing bets for others, the man verbally replied, “What’s the minimum bet? You mean the deposit. It’s $125.” At other times, player payments were referred to as “donations”.
Roddy, whose agency has worked in Minnesota since 1996, pointed out that when it comes to illegal gambling, “it’s not just about making sure people follow the law, it’s is about consumer protection”.
Otherwise, she added, “If you place a bet, there is no guarantee that you will be paid out if you win. There is no way of knowing if the bet will be handled fairly.”