The legislator set to lead a Minnesota sports betting effort this year said he is still working diligently to prepare the bill.
While Rep. Zack Stephenson has not introduced a bill yet, he told LSR this week serious conversations with stakeholders are ongoing. As chair of the House Commerce Committee, Stephenson announced in November 2021 MN sports betting would be a key issue for him in 2022.
Stephenson said he expects to introduce a bill early in the session, which starts Jan. 31. While he has yet to write the bill, he told LSR last week there “is a consensus we should be doing something.”
“[There have been] lots of conversations and more to have,” Stephenson said. “The momentum is growing and I’m more optimistic than ever that we will see meaningful action and passage.”
Step in the right direction
Stephenson previously told LSR mobile sports betting would be the most significant change to Minnesota gaming since its 1991 tribal compacts. There is a belief by some MN lawmakers this effort will lead to retail sports betting but leave mobile out.
Rep. Pat Garofalo, who has championed sports betting in Minnesota for several years, said in November 2o21 it will likely be a “two-step approach.” Another bill on the Senate side includes mobile sports betting and is still live from the 2021 session.
Sen. Roger Chamberlain is the sponsor of that bill, which also gives the tribes and the two horse racing tracks in the state brick-and-mortar licenses. He said it could be similar in structure to Michigan sports betting.
“We’re happy to hear there is some movement on the House side and I believe there is a path forward,” Chamberlain told LSR. “But unless mobile is part of it, it doesn’t make any sense.
“Up here it’s a little more difficult, but our belief is it’s a win-win-win. It’s a win for tribes, the state and the people who want to play.”
Tribes important to Minnesota sports betting
In the past, MN sports betting efforts stalled at least in part over the objections of the state’s tribal nations. Stephenson plans to chat with the 11 Minnesota tribes before he puts together a final draft.
He has met with seven of the tribes, with another two meetings on the calendar. Stephenson said he is working to schedule meetings with the final two tribes.
The 11 tribes operate 19 casinos in the state. When Stephenson announced his intentions in the fall, the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association released a statement suggesting it would be ready to cooperate on new gaming legislation.
“The tribal governments making up MIGA have been examining the various ways sports betting has been implemented across the country and its impacts on tribal communities,” MIGA Executive Director Andy Platto said in a statement. “As gaming experts, tribes stand ready to share this expertise with lawmakers considering the future of sports betting in Minnesota.”
Last January, Gov. Tim Walz said he is OK with sports betting as long as tribes sign off.