How New Minnesota Sports Betting Bill Highlights Gap Between Tribes, Tracks

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Minnesota sports betting

A Republican Senator has turned in his party’s latest Minnesota sports betting proposal, as a middle ground remains elusive.

Sen. Jeremy Miller announced updated Minnesota sports betting legislation last week, as gaming tribes and horse racing tracks continue negotiations based on a Democrat-Farmer-Laborer proposal last year. The bill comes as the two parties and their allies work toward finding an agreement to legalize MN sports betting.

“Minnesota continues to miss out on what is now a $100 billion industry,“ Miller said in a statement. “The goal of this proposal is to bring folks together to work toward a bipartisan solution to legalize sports betting in Minnesota. I strongly believe we can get it done this year.”

The DFL controls both chambers of the Minnesota legislature and the party has signified sports betting is near the top of its priorities this year. Multiple DFL lawmakers did not respond to requests for comment as of Monday. The session starts February 12.

Political battle in Minnesota

In Minnesota, there are clear battle lines in sports betting: the DFL and tribes across from Republicans and the tracks. The DFL’s proposal last year gives tribes sports betting exclusivity, and the session ended with tracks and tribes negotiating revenue sharing.

Tribes have killed Minnesota sports betting legislation in the past. Miller’s new proposal includes potential sportsbooks for the tracks, which garnered some praise from the industry.

The Republicans and DFL are “quite far apart,” according to a source. With a slight DFL legislative majority and opponents on both sides of the aisle, bipartisan agreement on sports betting likely is needed.

How new Minnesota sports betting bill differs

Miller has led Republican sports betting efforts for the past several years. Miller’s Minnesota Sports Betting Act 2.0 “incorporates feedback received from constituents, legislators and a variety of stakeholders.” 

Miller’s proposal includes: 

Professional sports teams supported tribal exclusivity in a letter to legislators last session. The DFL’s legislation carries over from last year.

DFL proposal on the table

Rep. Zack Stephenson has led the DFL sports betting push over the past two sessions. His base proposal includes:

After Stephenson’s bill stalled out in the House, Sen. Matt Klein picked up the issue late in the session. Klein amended the Senate version to include sending 30% of sports betting tax revenue to the tracks. While the tribes are amendable to the revenue-share idea, the session ended without an agreement.

Tracks want more

While the tracks appreciate Miller’s new proposal, they still want more. They want full licenses in Minnesota.

“We appreciate Sen. Miller recognizing the importance of the horse racing industry to Minnesota and appreciate that racetracks are included as the sports betting process moves forward,” Canterbury Park spokesperson Jeff Maday said in a statement to LSR.

“Operators of racetracks and tribal casinos manage gaming well in Minnesota. Both groups should have the authority to meet their customers’ interest in sports betting. We believe that full licenses should be authorized for both tribal casinos and racetracks.”

DFL agenda left out sports betting

Last year, the DFL pushed through a significant package of legislation addressing major party issues. Because of some in-party opposition, sports betting was left behind.

This year, DFL leadership is on board. Likewise, DFL Gov. Tim Walz supports sports betting legislation.

“If the Minnesota legislature was a football game, we’re like two minutes before the end of the first half, and then we’ll have an interim,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman said at the end of last session when asked if the issue was dead. “We’ll go home, we will rest and recover, and we’ll work on a lot of these bills during the interim, and we’ll come back and have another session, we believe starting around February 12.”