Minnesota sports betting legislation is caught in a slog of other issues, and a significant hurdle remains.
Multiple sources told LSR this week Minnesota legislators are working through several more prominent issues. Likewise, stakeholders are also hoping to find a way to include horse racing tracks into MN sports betting, which poses to be a potential dealbreaker.
“It feels like the momentum may have slowed,” one industry source said this week.
Rather than worry about how to generate more revenue, Minnesota lawmakers are working out how to spend a $17.5 billion surplus, according to Axios Twin Cities. Legislators also were on a break earlier this month. The Minnesota legislature is set to adjourn May 22.
Tracks remain Minnesota sports betting hurdle
In previous efforts to legalize MN sports betting, there have been strong pushes to include commercial entities, like horse racing tracks and professional sports teams. Those efforts have posed problematic in garnering support from the state’s tribes, which control casino gaming exclusivity in the state.
The tribes have single-handedly killed sports betting legislation in the past, so their support for legalization is vital. Early in the 2023 session, the professional teams in the state announced their support for a tribal-exclusive sports betting framework.
In March, multiple legislators brought up the intention to write an amendment to include tracks in Rep. Zack Stephenson’s HF 2000, which allocates 11 sportsbook licenses to the state’s tribes. Unlike last year, Stephenson’s DFL party controls both the House and Senate, as well as the Governor’s office.
Major Minnesota tribe falling away?
An industry source said one of the more significant tribes might have developed cold feet. That would track with previous efforts to include commercial entities. Last year, the Republican-controlled Senate’s inclusion of the tracks caused tribal support to fall off.
While the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association has supported the past two legalization efforts, it has tiptoed with its statements.
“Gaming revenues produce the essential tax base Tribes rely on to fund basic and essential government services for thousands of tribal members,” a MIGA statement read earlier this year. “Any time state changes the gaming landscape, tribes must carefully consider whether such proposals strengthen or, in fact, threaten tribal sovereignty and self-determination.”
What happens next in Minnesota?
One source told LSR if sports betting moves, it likely will not be until the end of May, before the end of the session.
Heading into this year, a clear path to legalization appeared in line for Minnesota. The hope was to build on Stephenson’s strong effort last year, which fell just short in the Senate. With one-party control, this year’s push appeared full of support.
How the rest of the session plays out, particularly concerning sports betting, appears to be up in the air.