Will Minnesota Sports Betting Bill Run Into Trouble?

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Minnesota sports betting

A Minnesota sports betting bill is strolling through its long path of legislative committees so far, but potential problems lie ahead.

MN sports betting legislation, HF 2000, passed through its third committee last week, with the House State and Local Government Finance and Policy Committee lying ahead Thursday. Last year, Rep. Zack Stephenson successfully navigated the committees and sent his MN sports betting bill to the Senate, where the momentum stalled out.

While many positive indicators exist for Stephenson’s legislation, several hurdles remain. Along with the need to court bipartisan support, the emergence of a potential amendment to include horse racing tracks could cause crucial support to drop off.

MN sports betting path clear so far

To date, Stephenson faced little pushback on his bill in committees. The bill proposes sending 40% of tax revenue from sports betting to support problem gambling programs.

The main hurdle has been horse racing tracks, which want to be part of the legislation in some form. According to testimony during last week’s Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee meeting, an amendment to include the tracks could be proposed soon.

Along with the state’s tribes, professional sports teams in Minnesota support Stephenson’s legislation, and warned against expanding beyond tribal exclusivity. Any inclusion of the tracks must be carefully crafted.

Path forward for Minnesota sports betting

In developing the legislation over the past two years, Stephenson talked with stakeholders across the state, including tribes and teams. His bill sets up the 11 Minnesota tribes with sports betting exclusivity, including online licenses.

The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association supports the legislation but continues to monitor the bill. Last year, the Senate’s inclusion of the racetracks caused MIGA to drop its support. A companion bill in the Senate began moving forward last week as well.

The tribes hold gaming exclusivity in Minnesota and have previously blocked sports betting legislation.

House, Senate aligned in Minnesota

Last year, the state’s two main political parties, Republican and Democrat-Farmer Labor, split control of the House and Senate. The Republican Party’s desire to include the horse racing tracks doomed the sports betting legislation.

In November’s election, the DFL retained control of the House and won the Senate. The dual control, combined with the sports betting support of DFL Gov. Tim Walz, could bode well for Stephenson’s bill this year.

Industry sources suggest the odds of passage are solid, but the issue still needs to attract bipartisan support. The support could suffer from political fighting on other issues in the state, according to the sources.

Republican Sen. Jeremy Miller has active sports betting legislation, but the bill has not moved this session. He does not believe a tribal exclusive effort can pass both chambers.