Will Minnesota Sports Betting Bill Have A Long Journey?

Written By Pat Evans on March 7, 2022
Minnesota sports betting

A Minnesota state representative followed through on his promise and unveiled a sports betting bill Monday.

Rep. Zack Stephenson announced his plan to legalize retail and mobile sports betting in Minnesota during a news conference Monday afternoon. In November 2021, Stephenson said he would lead a House effort to legalize sports betting.

Stephenson’s bill is aided by longtime Minnesota sports betting proponent Rep. Pat Garofalo. The bill must traverse at least six committees, beginning with a Tuesday hearing in the House Commerce Committee, which Stephenson chairs.

“This is a very positive first step, it will be a challenging road,” Garofalo said Monday. “One of the benefits of going later is it gives us the opportunity to learn from mistakes of other states and the opportunity to avoid that.”

Minnesota House bill goes through tribes

Stephenson’s always intended to work with the state’s tribes. He said he talked to all 11 Minnesota tribes, along with the professional sports teams and universities in the state, and studied the makeup of 32 legal markets.

Gov. Tim Walz also said he would sign MN sports betting legislation if passed.

Stephenson’s proposal legalizes retail sports betting at Minnesota tribal casinos while creating up to two “master mobile sports betting licenses” for the tribes, which will be held by an organization made up of two or more tribes. Each tribe under the master license can contract with a mobile sports betting platform provider.

The bill starts with a 10% tax rate, which would apply to mobile bets made off tribal land.

Tribal support for sports betting

In January, Stephenson told LSR he was in the midst of meeting with each of the state’s tribes. Tribes have been consistently opposed to MN sports betting in the past, but that could change this year.

“I feel very comfortable standing before you with a bill,” he said, acknowledging there is still plenty to iron out.

The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association said in the fall it would be open to working on legislation this session. On Monday, MIGA released a statement of support.

“The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association and its 10 member tribal nations support state efforts to authorize sports wagering both at tribal properties and through online/mobile platforms and believe tribes are best positioned to offer this new market to the state’s consumers,” the statement reads. “MIGA and its members will be monitoring state legislation and look forward to working with other stakeholders.”

Minnesota compromise needed?

Last month, a group of Minnesota senators held a news conference to reveal their intentions for a bill. Sen. Roger Chamberlain is leading the Senate effort.

Chamberlain’s plan includes online and retail sports betting, but a bill has not been filed. Along with the tribes, the Senate proposal includes the state’s two horse racing tracks.

“We’ll have two opposing pieces, and we’ll find out what we can live with and what we can’t,” Chamberlain told PlayUSA last week. “Hopefully we can find a compromise in conference committee.”

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Pat Evans

Pat Evans is a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based reporter covering sports business. Evans previously worked at Front Office Sports and the Grand Rapids Business Journal. He has authored two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer.

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