Industry sources are bullish that Minnesota lawmakers will legalize sports betting in 2024.
Following a close call in 2022, legislators will carry over a bill from the 2023 session that has a deal in the works to legalize sports betting in Minnesota. Multiple sources told LSR Minnesota is the most likely state to cross the finish line in 2024. The session begins February 12.
There appear to be enough lawmakers in line to vote in favor of MN sports betting as long as the state’s tribes and horse racing tracks come to an agreement. One source said no amount of lobbying will alter how the legislators feel on the issue, and it is up to those two parties.
“It’s really how are the tribes and the tracks going to come to some sort of agreement,” one source told LSR. “That’s off the legislation books and an agreement between them. [Minnesota is the] frontrunner for getting legislation done on sports betting next session.”
Tribes see their opportunity
Holding sway within the Democrat-Farmer Labor party, tribes have exclusivity over state gaming and have killed sports betting in the past. The DFL unexpectedly took control of the legislative branch in the 2022 election and helped push forward a tribal-exclusive sports betting proposal.
Along with the legislative branch, Gov. Tim Walz is also a DFL member and a sports betting supporter. With DFL control not guaranteed past 2024, tribes might see it as now or never.
“[Minnesota is] my top pick,” one source said. “Given the uncertainty of DFL control in 2025 politically, the tribes will push the legislature to ensure they pass a tribal-controlled model. The Speaker is publicly saying she’s supportive, as is the Governor.”
How Minnesota sports betting got here
The DFL prioritized a package of issues the lawmakers could champion heading into the 2024 elections. However, because of some in-party opposition to sports betting, the issue was left out of the final bundle.
The opposition also carries over, so proponents need some Republican support to pass the sports betting legislation. The Republican proponents want the tracks involved, which will require the tribes to budge on exclusivity.
“Very, very good chance this gets out of both chambers pretty early on in the session, assuming the tribes stay positive,” one source said.
What are potential sticking points?
After legislators completed many of their policy goals, Sen. Matt Klein picked up the issue. He amended Rep. Zack Stephenson’s proposal to send 30% of sports betting revenue to the two horse racing tracks in the state.
The tracks want more, including licenses. While tribes are open to negotiations, support to expand licenses beyond tribes is unlikely.
Also of note: Minnesota professional sports teams support tribal exclusivity in the state.
DFL working hard for sports betting
With major platform policy goals achieved, several DFL lawmakers expressed committment to working on MN sports betting. At the end of the 2023 session, House Speaker Melissa Hortman said DFL leadership would stay committed to the issue.
“I’m optimistic it will happen,” Rep. John Huot told LSR earlier this year. “It really sits with the negotiations between the tribes and the tracks and make sure they’re in a comfortable space and work together and get the best for us. There is a group of us that want to get this past the finish line. What we don’t want is infighting between the tribes and the state.”