Rep. Zack Stephenson‘s legislation to legalize MN sports betting took a roundabout trip to the House floor but is on its way.
HF 778 was voted out of the House Ways and Means Committee last week by a 14-7 vote. The sports betting bill is now cleared to be heard on the House floor.
This was the fifth committee the bill legalizing Minnesota sportsbooks visited on its journey to the House floor. The proposal allows sports betting through the 11 federally-recognized tribes in Minnesota.
Road ahead for Minnesota sports betting
A vote on the House floor is likely, according to several sources, but where the issue goes from there is up in the air.
A Senate bill has not yet moved in the chamber, but this week Sen. Karla Bigham told LSR, “We are still working it.”
The Senate wants to include Minnesota’s race tracks and stadiums. That would likely be a dealbreaker for the tribes, which have posed a sports betting roadblock in the past.
MN sports betting bill amended
There were two amendments facing HF 778 at last week’s meeting, though only one passed.
Stephenson amended the bill to be self-sufficient so the cost of regulating sports betting would be paid for by the industry’s taxes and various fees instead of creating a special fund. That passed, but the amendment from Rep. Tim Miller did not.
Miller started off by saying he liked the change Stephenson made to the bill, then offered an amendment that essentially stripped out all those changes and had the bill funded from the general fund, as Stephenson pointed out.
Not just about the money
Miller also made it clear he had more issues with the bill than just what the amendment covered.
“In tax committee and now in this committee as well, I’ve heard that the purpose of this bill is to stop shady websites, digital workarounds, end the black market and have a legalized regulated market. Now, in past vices that we’ve addressed and current ones on this one, I think we’re going to be hearing within the next couple of years something with marijuana with a similar argument.
“Maybe long past I’m here, I hope this never happens, but we might even hear something on things like prostitution, that we need to tax it to make it legal.”
After Stephenson explained his position against Miller’s amendment, Miller asked for one more statement: “I will keep this to the purview of this committee on this. I’ll anxiously discuss this further on the floor about this black market that is out there clouding the state of Minnesota.”
Sentator: purpose of MN sports betting not just taxes
Stephenson said there are bigger reasons that he wants to see legal sports betting in Minnesota beyond just tax dollars.
“I do want taxes low,” Stephenson said. “A primary purpose of this is to defeat the black market. Another primary purpose of this bill is to be honest about what’s happening in Minnesota and address it honestly.”
Stephenson said $2 billion is bet illegally in Minnesota every year, with none of those funds going toward problem gambling.
HF 778 would create 11 online sports betting skins, one for each of the state’s federally recognized tribes. The tribes could run their own books or, more likely, partner with one of a US market leader like BetMGM, DraftKings or FanDuel.
Those tribes could also host retail sportsbooks at their casinos.
Sports betting revenue would be taxed at 10%.