Minnesota Sports Betting Bill Opponents Want Fewer ‘Losers’

Written By Pat Evans on March 16, 2022
Minnesota sports betting

A Minnesota sports betting bill continues to roll on even as opposition mounts.

The House State Government Finance and Elections Committee approved HB 7787-5, Tuesday as sponsor Rep. Zack Stephenson continues leading his MN sports betting effort through committees. It now heads to the Judiciary Committee.

The bill passed through the Stephenson-chaired House Commerce Committee, 14-4, last week.

Minnesota aims for competitive sports betting market

Stephenson’s proposal would create two master sports betting licenses for organizations made up of two tribes or more. Those master licenses would then allow up to 11 mobile sports betting licenses, one for each of the state’s tribes.

In November 2021, Stephenson announced his plans to lead a sports betting push this session. The proposal comes after months of conversations with stakeholders in the state, including tribes, professional sports teams, universities and racetracks.

Stephenson stressed he wants to keep taxes low to make the industry competitive. The bill earmarks sports betting tax revenue for problem gambling support and youth sports.

Minnesota sports betting age to jump

Following last week’s committee meeting, most complaints concerned the minimum sports betting age. In the original bill, 18 is the legal age to place a bet on sports.

Stephenson will bring an amendment to the next committee raising the minimum age to 21.

‘Winners and losers’ in Minnesota

Rep. Jon Koznick would like to see the state’s two horse racing tracks included in the legislation, suggesting the bill “picks winners and losers.” The Senate proposal yet to hit committees does include the tracks.

“I think you’re missing an opportunity to garner support by excluding other properties that are very well-versed in this and have a good reason to be included,” Koznick said.

Minnesota charitable gaming allies push back

Several opponents expressed disappointment charitable groups are left out of sports betting, including Electronic Gaming Group Executive Director Sam Krueger. Krueger said charitable gaming, which includes bingo, raffles and electronic pulltabs through nonprofit entities, is a $3 billion industry in Minnesota.

“The tribes are not the only game in town,” Krueger said. “This bill is picking winners and losers in this industry.”

Rep. Duane Quam said his biggest issue with the bill is it does not address the “excessive taxation added to charitable gaming.” Stephenson believes the two issues are separate and said his bill is about regulating an industry to address legitimate concerns. He also said he does not expect it to be a financial windfall for the state.

“There is no way you can say a bill on gambling and taxing gambling is unrelated to taxes on charitable gaming,” Quam said in response. “I’m tired of excuses any time we try to help greater Minnesota communities and it just seems disingenuous to say it’s not related and we’re not doing this because we want money for the state.”

Minnesota tribes cooperating

At a last week’s committee meeting, Minnesota Indian Gaming Association Executive Director Andy Platto said member tribes are still happy with the general concept of the bill. MIGA represents 10 of the 11 tribes in the state.

Tribes have opposed expanding the state’s gaming to include sports betting in the past.

Platto said during Tuesday’s committee meeting the tribes are still offering input in good faith.

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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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