Following a strong push in 2022, Minnesota sports betting proponents will follow up with another shot and a cleaner path in 2023.
Rep. Zack Stephenson, who sponsored an MN sports betting bill that cleared the House in 2022, will lead another effort this session, which started Tuesday.
“Rep. Stephenson will be carrying again this year, and we’ll be making a strong push,” a legislative aide told LSR this week. “There’ll be some minor changes, nothing public at the moment. As far as movement, I anticipate the initial language being introduced around two weeks from now.”
Stephenson’s bill ran into a Republican roadblock in the Senate last year. During last year’s election, however, Stephenson’s Democrat-Farmer-Labor (DFL) party took control of the chamber, leaving a clearer path for the issue.
Minnesota sports betting set up
With Stephenson shepherding a similar bill to his legislation last year, the sports betting setup gives Native American tribes control of sports betting in the state. Stephenson told KMSP in St. Paul last month he will again put tribes in charge of sports betting.
Last year’s bill allowed the 11 federally recognized tribes in Minnesota the ability to partner with online sports betting operators and open retail sportsbooks at tribal casinos. Stephenson had tribal support throughout the bill’s legislative hearings. On Wednesday, the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association reiterated its support in a statement for sports betting in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
In previous efforts, tribal opposition killed Minnesota sports betting legislation. The Republican-controlled Senate killed the bill last session, largely by hoping to include Minnesota’s horse racing tracks.
“We came so close last year and I do think we have a great chance to get it across the finish line this year,” Stephenson told KMSP. “I think that our best bet for such a big expansion of gaming in Minnesota is to stick with our trusted partners. The tribes have been operating gaming in Minnesota for longer, more successfully, and at a more sophisticated level that any other entity. They’re the most regulated gaming operator in the state of Minnesota.”
Not about sports betting taxes in Minnesota
Last year, Stephenson emphasized that his legalization effort is about regulating an activity already taking place and not about generating taxes. The bill placed a 10% tax on mobile wagers made off tribal land.
Minnesota legislators are working with a $17.6 billion budget surplus, so the argument of bringing in tax dollars seen in many states does not move the needle much in the state.
Did twist in Minnesota election pave the way?
In 2022, there appeared to be enough sports betting support in Minnesota to make a deal of some form. Republicans, however, believed they would take control of the House in the November 2022 election and wanted to wait for their preferred legislation. It likely would include commercial entities in the state such as the state’s horse racing tracks and possibly professional sports teams
During a House floor debate last year, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said he believed sports betting could pass in the future, then voted against the bill.
The election, however, ended up giving Senate control to the DFL. Now the DFL holds control of both chambers, as well as Gov. Tim Walz, a supporter of the tribal-led endeavor Stephenson will push this year.
Support swells in Minnesota
Last year, a KTSP/SurveyUSA poll found that 64% of Minnesotans support sports betting. Previous supporters of sports betting are also game to help the issue.
Former Sen. Karla Bigham told LSR she will still work on the issue in her new role as a Washington County Commissioner. Bigham recently told KSTP that sports betting legislation was something “I would bet on.”
Multiple industry sources told LSR that Minnesota has a good chance at legalization this year with continued MIGA support.