Legislators Bring Minnesota Sports Betting Bill Back Into Focus

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Minnesota sports betting

A Minnesota sports betting bill from last year is alive and moving. 

The Human Services Finance Committee approved an amendment to House File 2000, appropriating money from Minnesota sports betting, before sending the legislation on to the State and Local Government Committee.

Industry proponents came into 2024 optimistic Minnesota stakeholders can strike a deal this session after leaving 2023 with the state’s tribes and horse racing tracks at the negotiating table.

Rep. Zack Stephenson carried the bill to the committee, returning to his legislation that was left behind in 2023 as the Democrat-Farmer-Labor party focused on other platform goals. Stephenson led the DFL attempts in the previous two sessions as well.

Minnesota sports betting legislation status

The DFL controls the two legislative chambers and the governor’s mansion, but because of internal party opposition, needs Republican support to pass the issue. Republicans hope to include the tracks in the industry, which the tracks want to be through licenses.

The tribes, however, control gaming exclusivity in the state and hope that remains with sports betting. The tribes have strong DFL connections and have killed sports betting legislation before.

Coming out of last session, multiple industry sources told LSR it is up to the tracks and tribes to work out their differences for lawmakers to pass the legislation. Stephenson was the lead lawmaker in the negotiations over the break, Rep. John Huot told LSR last year, and tribes continue to back his proposal.

“Were HF2000, as currently drafted, to become law, MIGA tribes believe the resulting mobile and retail markets operated by Minnesota’s Tribal Nations would not only support tribes, but would also provide a well-regulated and accessible market for the state’s sports bettors and a competitive market that is important to our states professional sports teams and market partners,” a letter sent prior to Thursday’s hearing reads.

Stephenson’s sports betting proposal 

HF 2000 gives the 11 Minnesota tribes access to sports betting, including online sportsbooks. The bill carries a 10% tax rate on sports betting revenue.

“People are wagering on sports every day in Minnesota right now,” Stephenson said Thursday. “They’re just doing it illegally. It’s very easy to place an illegal bet on sports through offshore websites and other mechanisms.”

The state’s professional sports teams sent a letter supporting the DFL plan.

Appropriating MN sports betting tax money

The Human Services Committee approved an amendment to send money to support problem gambling programs. The tax revenue goes to a special fund, first to pay off operations costs. 

Half of the money then goes to youth sports programs, including integrity projects to help educate college athletes on gambling issues. The other half goes toward problem gambling support.

The funds go into three buckets that Stephenson described as: 

Sports betting progress in 2023

In 2022, Stephenson’s legislation was up against a Republican-led Senate, which amended the bill to include the tracks. It failed to pass the upper chamber. 

Last year, after the House opted to push easier lifts, Sen. Matt Klein picked up the Senate’s companion bill to HF 2000, Senate File 1949. Klein amended the bill to send 30% of sports betting revenue to the tracks. 

The tracks, however, want more, including sportsbook licenses. The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association remained open to negotiations, but support to expand licensure remains unlikely.

Tribes hold ultimate power

Huot said the tribes could launch sports betting without legislative approval, but want to keep a strong working relationship with the state.

“We’ve really tried to engage the tribes and they’ve tried to engage us on everything,” Huot said last year. “It’s just part of the values of our caucus. We want to make sure they’re included and they’re returning that.”

Meanwhile, multiple sources said the tracks are losing political leverage as the industry struggles in Minnesota.

Separate Republican bill alive

Sen. Jeremy Miller introduced a new Senate sports betting bill, Senate File 3803, earlier this month.

In Miller’s bill, tribes can partner with the tracks and sports teams for in-person sportsbooks. 

The proposal also includes a 15% tax.