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Minnesota Looks Doubtful To Legalize Sports Betting


The Minnesota House last week passed a sports betting bill that would put the state’s tribes in control of wagering, while a Senate attempt to attach more commercial-friendly language to a budget bill failed. The chambers remain at odds about who should control gaming, and it’s likely the session will close Monday without action on legal wagering.

Some lawmakers in Minnesota have been trying to legalize since April 2018, when Rep. Pat Garofalo drafted the state’s first bill. This session marked the first time a bill passed either chamber, but given the chasm between what the House wants (digital wagering run by the tribes) and what the Senate wants (a more inclusive law that would allow wagering at tribal casinos and horse racetracks) it’s likely lawmakers will have to go back to the drawing board.

“When it comes to sports betting, we need those stakeholders to continue to have discussions. It cannot be one-sided,” Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller told CBS Minnesota last week.

House bill gives tribes exclusivity

To recap, Rep. Zach Stephenson marched his bill through five House committees, each of which offered a little tweak, before it got to the House floor, where an amended version was approved last Thursday.

That bill would allow for statewide mobile wagering tethered to tribal casinos. Sports betting would be taxed at 10% of gross gaming revenue, and state revenue would be used to pay for regulatory costs, to fund problem and responsible gaming initiatives, and to support youth sports programs in at-risk communities. The legal wagering age would be 21, up from 18 in the original version of the bill.

Stephenson has spent considerable time getting the state’s tribes on board. In previous years, the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association repeatedly said it would not support a wagering bill, but this year, it was all in. Unlike the House, however, the Senate is unwilling to give the tribes exclusivity.

The only legal sports betting state where tribes have retained total exclusivity is Washington, where in-person wagering is legal. In Arizona, Connecticut, and Michigan, where tribes worked directly with state legislators to legalize, the tribes had to agree to allow some commercial entities to participate in order to get sports betting passed.

In California, a coalition of tribes has a sports betting initiative on the 2022 ballot that would enable consumers to wager at tribal casinos and four racetracks.

Senate didn’t move a bill

On the Senate side in Minnesota, a bill introduced by Sen. Roger Chamberlain has been sitting in the Committee for State Government Finance and Policy and Elections since February 2021. Sen. Carla Bingham and Garofalo last year also promised a wagering bill, but it didn’t gain any traction. Bingham tried floating an amendment to the Senate’s budget bill last week, but the amendment was considered “out of order,” as it wasn’t directly related to the tax bill.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018, Minnesota neighbors Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, as well as the Canadian province of Ontario, have legalized or gone live with some form of wagering. Digital betting is legal in Iowa and Ontario, tribes in North Dakota currently offer in-person wagering, South Dakota lawmakers legalized retail betting in Deadwood, and the Oneida tribe in Wisconsin in 2021 became the first tribe there to re-compact to allow in-person betting.

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