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Tribal casinos in Minnesota might be next on deck for regulated sports betting.
On Wednesday, Rep. Pat Garofalo unveiled a new MN sports betting bill as part of a press conference in the capital. Garofalo has been the primary spark for related discussions in Saint Paul over the past year, an effort which has finally spawned a piece of proposed legislation.
The bill has both a title and a logo:
— Representative Pat Garofalo (@PatGarofalo) February 13, 2019
Garofalo noted that he has shared the bill with “multiple tribal entities” after drafting it more than a week ago. He plans to introduce it formally when lawmakers return to work on Thursday.
The MN sports betting bill proposes language to define and legalize “sports pools” within state lines. It would create a new five-member Minnesota Sports Wagering Commission to promulgate rules and regulations for the tribal casinos.
There are currently 11 federally recognized tribes in the state which operate a total of 19 gambling establishments. Under the provisions, those properties would be the only ones that could seek licensure.
While the bill lays out the minimum betting age of 18 years old, it puts many of the decisions over implementation in the hands of regulators. Not everything is left to the commission, though.
Garofalo’s bill only permits on-site mobile wagering platforms and retail sportsbooks, but it does expressly allow betting on any professional or NCAA D-I sporting event. There is no mention of an integrity fee or any other allocation to the sports leagues.
The license fee is not yet listed, and the only tax proposed is an excise levied at 0.5 percent of handle. That would generally work out to around 10 percent of revenue, presuming a typical hold of around 5 percent. If passed, Minnesota would be the first US state to calculate tax obligations based on the total amount wagered rather than revenue.
The federal government, of course, collects its own handle-based excise tax of 0.25 percent.
As the primary stakeholders in the Minnesota gambling industry, tribes have significant leverage with lawmakers.
Though the tribes’s stance on this 2019 proposal remains unclear publicly, Garofalo’s press conference creates cause for optimism.
“The primary benefits to Minnesotans from legalizing sports gambling is that you defund the criminal enterprises of the nation. You eliminate a revenue stream for potential money laundering.”
Garofalo believes his bill is a favorite to pass during the current session, though he admits it’s an underdog for this calendar year. The 2019 half of the two-year lawmaking session ends on May 21.
As for statewide online/mobile betting? Maybe later.
“Right now, the easiest way to get a law passed is to limit it to certain sites. And then we can address the issue of mobile and other platforms at some point in the future.”