Critics take aim at legalized sports betting in Minnesota

Published 6:30 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

ST. PAUL — Critics of a bill to legalize sports betting in Minnesota warned legislators Tuesday that it would worsen problem gambling and favor tribes over other gaming interests.

Anne Krisnik of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition told a House committee that more needs to be done to educate Minnesotans about problem gambling and support those affected by it before the bill goes forward.

“We know that operators are going to do a great job of talking about the entertainment value of gambling, but we need to make sure that Minnesotans understand what’s at risk,” she said.

Email newsletter signup

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Zack Stephenson, of Coon Rapids, would allow in-person sports wagering at casinos and authorizes tribes to issue licenses to mobile gaming operators. The Senate version, authored by Republican Sen. Roger Chamberlain, of Lino Lakes, also would allow in-person sports betting at the state’s two horse racing tracks.

At least 30 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized some form of sports gambling since the Supreme Court ended a longtime ban in 2018 and allowed states to permit betting on sports. All states surrounding Minnesota, as well as Canada, allow sports betting.

Stephenson said the tax rate on revenue from sports betting would be as low as possible to encourage bettors to abandon illicit gambling in underground operations and offshore sites and move toward the state’s regulated model. His bill would set the legal gambling age at 21, reserve some revenue for youth sports and establish crimes for betting on sports via unlicensed operations and accepting wagers without a license.

Sam Krueger, executive director of the Electronic Gaming Group, said charitable gambling such as electronic pull-tab games, funds youth sports programs, services for veterans, snowmobile clubs and other community groups statewide. He said the legislation “picks winners and losers in this industry” by excluding charitable gambling operations, which would jeopardize their financial well-being.

“To be clear, we are not against sports betting in general,” he told lawmakers. “But we are against bills that allow our chief competitors, the tribes, to vastly expand their operations outside of their existing jurisdictions without allowing the charities a reasonable path to compete and grow going forward.”

The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, which represents 10 of Minnesota’s 11 tribal nations, has expressed tentative support for the bill, a change from its previous opposition to legalizing sports gambling statewide. Stephenson said he met with all 11 tribes — in addition to the states professional sports teams, sports betting companies and the University of Minnesota — before crafting the bill.