Sports betting now open at St. Croix Casino in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin

With the traditional red tape and oversized scissors, St. Croix Casino in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin officially opened their sports book Friday, with a short line of betters waiting to be among the first to legally wager on sports.

"Been waiting for a long time," said Dan Skaar or Turtle Lake as he placed bets on baseball games. "Should have been open a long time ago! Should be open in Minnesota, too. Should have it there."

The first "official" bet was placed by Georgia Cobenais, a member of the Turtle Lake Tribal Council, commenting on the long road to get to this point.

"Nerve-wracking, exciting," she said, "but we had a great team all the way around and everybody worked together."

Wisconsin legalized sports betting at its tribal casinos last year, but St. Croix Casino still had to work through the final approvals of their set-up with federal agencies.

"A process that should take a month or two, we made it into about a five-month process unfortunately," said Jeff Merrill, the sports book manager for St. Croix Casino.  "So the biggest hurdle was clearing the hurdles at the federal government level."

With legal sports betting now open so close to the Twin Cities, it puts more pressure on Minnesota to follow suit.  Bills to put sports books at Minnesota’s tribal casinos have more momentum at the Capitol this session, now that tribal leaders, who have been wary in the past, have now voiced their support.

But with only five weeks left in the session in St. Paul, and considering the legislation is very complex, it looks like long odds it could get done this year.

But more than 30 states now have some form of legalized sports betting, including all the states that surround Minnesota.

Merrill, the sports book manager, is among those who believe it’s not a matter of if, but when.  And he says he welcomes the competition.

"I would think it’s inevitable," said Merrill. "And my thought is that, good luck, because it’s competition. It’s just business and competition makes it good for everybody."

Cobenais, the St. Croix Tribal Council member, agrees.

"We’re all in tribal gaming, so we’ve got to support all our people in all our tribes across the nation, so yeah, good luck.  I think there’s enough to go around."kms