Can Horse Racing Amendment Save Minnesota Sports Betting Bill?

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Minnesota sports betting

Following a few weeks on the back burner, Minnesota sports betting legislation was kickstarted with an amendment to address a potential hurdle.

While the Senate State and Local Government Committee tabled Sen. Matt Klein‘s MN sports betting bill Wednesday, Klein added an amendment proponents hope will help the legislation pass this year. Committee Chair Sen. Erin Murphy said they will likely take the bill, SF 1949, back up next week.

Klein’s legislation is a companion to Rep. Zack Stephenson’s bill, HF 2000, which has moved through multiple committees in the House this year. Stephenson’s bill was derailed earlier this session as some legislators want to include horse racing tracks into his tribal-exclusive proposal.

Tracks not satisfied in Minnesota

To help potentially satisfy those desires, Klein added an amendment Wednesday which would send 30% of the state’s sports betting tax haul to the tracks.

The bill needs to maneuver through multiple Senate committees before a floor vote and a trip to the House. The Minnesota legislature adjourns May 22.

Some sports betting proponents wanted to include the tracks into legislation last year, which ultimately killed the effort. This year’s push again initially left out the tracks completely, before running into opposition in the House. The licenses for sports betting are allocated to the 11 Minnesota tribes.

Can Minnesota legislators thread the needle?

Prior to Wednesday’s committee meeting, Klein told The Star Tribune the amendment is a “late-hour effort” to keep sports betting alive this session. The fund from sports betting tax for the tracks would be capped at $3 million. He acknowledged the tracks would be against the tribal-exclusive plan, but believes this is a good faith amendment.

Representatives from the state’s two tracks, Running Aces and Canterbury Park, spoke in opposition to the bill. The tracks want equal treatment as gaming stakeholders in the issue. Minnesota tribes hold casino gaming exclusivity in the state.

“This is the first time we’ve seen the horse tracks referenced, we do appreciate that,” Running Aces CFO Tracie Wilson said. “We oppose and will continue to see a solution to keep horse racing viable. This will endanger the horse racing industry in Minnesota.”

Tribes remain in support of MN sports betting

Minnesota Indian Gaming Association executive director Andy Platto spoke in support of the legislation Wednesday. MIGA’s support is crucial to the proposal, as tribal opposition killed previous efforts

Previously, the tribes opposed any track inclusion. Last year, the Republican-controlled Senate tried to include horse racing tracks, causing tribal support to wane. Stephenson successfully navigated through the Democrat-Farmer Labor-controlled House with a bill similar to the one he introduced this year.

This year, the DFL controls both chambers, as well as the governor’s office. Earlier this session, professional sports teams in Minnesota backed the tribal-exclusive legislation.