Sports betting back on agenda at Minnesota Legislature
Published 5:55 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2023
ST. PAUL — Legalizing sports betting is back on the agenda of the Minnesota Legislature, and advocates expressed hope Tuesday that they’ll find the votes to get a plan through the state Senate, where the idea has died before.
The Democratic proposal, introduced Monday, would put the state’s Indigenous tribes in control of in-person betting at their casinos as well as remote wagering via mobile devices. Similar to a bill that passed the House last year, the state’s two horse tracks and other venues would be shut out of the action.
This year, a trade group for tribal casinos and six major-league sports teams have forged an alliance to support the bill. While it got some Republican support in the Democratic-controlled House last year, it stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate. While support and opposition don’t break cleanly along party lines, supporters hope the new Senate Democratic majority will make the difference.
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“More than 30 states, including all of Minnesota’s neighbors, have legalized sports betting in some form or fashion,” the lead House author, Democratic Rep. Zack Stephenson, of Coon Rapids, said at a news conference. “Minnesotans deserve the same opportunities that our neighbors have.”
The proposal is not aimed at producing a financial windfall for the state. The state’s cut would be 10% of the net wagers online and on mobile devices. It would raise an estimated $10 million to $12 million for regulation and consumer protection, programs for problem gamblers and for youth sports with an emphasis on communities with high levels of juvenile crime.
Wagers placed in person at tribal casinos would not be subject to state tax. Tribes could partner with popular online sports betting platforms such as DraftKings and FanDuel to let people bet from home.
“We’re not doing this to raise revenue for the state of Minnesota, we’re doing this in order to transition from an … illicit market into a legitimate market and to put guardrails on the activity,” Stephenson said.
The proposal still has a long way to go before becoming law. It needs to clear several committees in both the House and Senate, and Stephenson said he doesn’t expect floor votes anytime soon.
Democratic Sen. Matt Klein, of Mendota Heights, expressed optimism while acknowledging that he needs 34 votes to pass the bill in the Senate, where Democrats hold just a one-seat majority.
“It’s early, the language has just gotten out there, I cannot say I have 34 votes right now today,” Klein said.
Stephenson said they chose to exclude the Canterbury Park and Running Aces horse racing tracks, and other potentially interested entities, because the tribal casinos have the most experience running gaming operations and they operate across the state. And he said there probably aren’t enough votes to pass it in the House unless it’s exclusive to the tribes.
Republicans Sen. Jeremy Miller, of Winona, has been touting an alternative approach that would let the two tracks offer sports betting, and allow pro sports teams to offer it at their stadiums and arenas. The state’s cut also would be 10%, but the proceeds would be distributed more widely. Money would also go to tax relief for charitable gambling operations that offer pull-tabs, and for attracting major sporting events to Minnesota.
Miller told reporters he thinks its great that two of the three major stakeholders — the tribes and the teams — are now allied but that he still thinks the tracks should be included. He said he doesn’t think there are enough votes to pass it in the Senate “without something for the tracks” and that it won’t get bipartisan support if they’re left out.
“I’m optimistic that we can still get it done this year,” Miller said.