Minnesota Sports Betting Bill Rolls Forward Despite ‘Concerns’

Written By Pat Evans on March 9, 2022
Minnesota sports betting

A promising Minnesota sports betting bill is off and running.

Rep. Zack Stephenson’s HF 778 passed out of the House Commerce Committee, which he chairs, 14-4, Tuesday afternoon. The passage is the first significant step a MN sports betting bill has taken despite several previous efforts.

“This is a very good first step in what will be a long process of revising the bill,” Stephenson said following the vote. “I will work hard to address some of the concerns, particularly around young-person access to it.”

Minnesota sports betting proposal

Stephenson said he welcomes any suggestions to his bill, which he filed Monday. He announced his intentions to lead a MN sports betting effort in November 2021.

His bill allows for retail sports betting at tribal casinos in the state and gives the state’s 11 tribes control over mobile sports betting in Minnesota. The state could collect a tax on mobile bets made off tribal land, which Stephenson said would be consistent with markets across the country.

His proposal would create up to two “master mobile sports betting licensees,” which would split the state by north and south. Those licenses would go to organizations made up of at least two tribes, with each tribe able to contract with one sports betting platform.

Tribal support still crucial

In the past, Minnesota sports betting efforts were thwarted in part because of opposition from the state’s tribes. Stephenson is hoping his conversations with all 11 tribes prior to the session pay off this year.

The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association released a statement in November that its members would work with legislators on sports betting. The group appears it still needs more convincing.

“The tribes hope to become as comfortable with the details of the bill as they are with the general concept,” MIGA Executive Director Andy Platto said during Tuesday’s meeting.

Minnesota sports betting concerns

Several representatives proposed amendments that Stephenson opposed. Those changes ultimately failed.

Rep. Jordan Rasmussen worried the state might be expanding gambling too quickly, wanted to impose an in-person registration and deposit requirement for mobile sports betting. Neighboring Iowa, which is brought up frequently in Minnesota, saw sports betting revenue climb quickly after in-person registration expired in January 2021.

“The language described has been adopted. Notably, it’s pretty quickly removed,” Stephenson said. “I certainly do share concerns about problem gambling, but there are ways to deal with that issue other than this amendment.”

Age restrictions worth watching

Rasmussen also wanted to raise the bill’s minimum age requirement of 18.

Stephenson also opposed that amendment because young Minnesotans could still access sports betting on the black market. The bill sponsor said he would continue to look for protections for those under the age of 21.

Sports betting testimony in MN

A variety of proponents and opponents testified during Tuesday’s hearing. Opponents included several representatives from religious organizations.

Proponents included Brandt Iden from Sportradar, which is based in Minneapolis. His comments solicited a mention of Calvin Ridley, the NFL receiver suspended this week for betting on league games.

A representative from a race track in Minnesota also spoke, hoping legislators might add tracks to the legislation.

“If we’re going to open up gaming, let’s take a little bit more of a broad look,” Rep. Cal Bahr said. “It’s a good time to be all-inclusive so we don’t have an adverse effect on other things.”

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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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