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Minnesota Legislature Closes With No Legal Sports Betting


Minnesota state Rep. Patrick Garofalo got some yard work done this weekend. He tweeted Sunday that as the state legislature was set to close, no votes had been taken, so he was tidying up his yard. It’s not really a satisfactory alternative to, say, wagering on the final round of the PGA Championship, the first-place Minnesota Twins, or the Minnesota Vikings. 

But what’s a Minnesotan to do? Ten days after the Missouri state legislature closed without any action — and lots of contentious debate — on sports betting, its northern friend did the same. On May 12, the Minnesota House passed a bill that would have put sports betting in the hands of the state’s 11 tribes. Less than a week later, a Senate committee amended the bill, changing how tax revenue would be allocated and taking that exclusivity away. The Senate version of HF 778 would allow two racetracks to also offer sports wagering. 

In both versions of the bill, residents would have had access to retail and statewide mobile wagering with a 10% tax rate and a fairly open, competitive marketplace. But the question of what entities would be able to offer wagering is the critical difference. And neither side blinked. 

MIGA withdraws support

The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association has long been opposed to legal wagering if the tribes aren’t in control, and while it stood with Rep. Zach Stephenson — and Garofalo — as he worked his bill through five House committees this session, MIGA late last week wrote a letter opposing other versions. 

“Through the stakeholder process, Rep. Stephenson, Rep. Garofalo, and others crafted a bill that accomplishes the goal of providing a safe and competitive marketplace for Minnesota sports bettors without threatening the viability of tribal gaming in the state. … If amended by the A-22 amendment, which expands commercial gaming, all 10 MIGA tribes would then oppose the legislation,” the letter said. 

The net result is that Minnesota remains one of just 16 states that has yet to legalize wagering in some form. So far this year, Maine and Kansas have legalized, while lawmakers in Kentucky and Missouri furiously debated the issue with no resolution. Bills remain active in state capitals in North Carolina and Massachusetts, while voters in California will choose between multiple options for legalization by referendum in November.

Since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2018, every single one of Minnesota’s border states and Canada have begun offering some form of legal wagering, including digital betting in both Iowa and Ontario. 

“[There are] too many legislators focused on short-term political considerations instead of thinking about what is best for the whole state,” Garofalo told the Duluth News Tribune Monday. “The sports gambling issue is symbolic of how screwed up the lawmaking process is in Minnesota.”

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