Minnesota sports betting legislation advanced in a Senate committee this week, but with only days remaining before the state Legislature is to adjourn for 2022, the odds are slim that gambling will be expanded this year.
State Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) recently introduced a sports betting bill that quickly garnered 5-4 support in the Senate Finance Committee. But Chamberlain’s bill differs significantly from a sports betting statute that has gained favor in the House.
House File 778 would allow Minnesota’s 11 federally recognized tribes to operate sports betting at their casinos, as well as online with an approved third-party vendor like DraftKings. Chamberlain’s sports betting statute does the same, but would additionally provide retail and online sports betting privileges for the state’s two horse racetracks.
“We’re very happy to help protect the tribes. I always have been willing to do that, but we cannot allow exclusivity in this case,” Chamberlain said of his sports betting law that includes the horsemen.
“This version is good for tribes, it’s good for tracks, and most importantly, it is great for consumers,” the Republican lawmaker continued. “It gives Minnesotans gaming options at brick-and-mortar locations and online vendors. It respects the Tribal Nations and provides a revenue stream to the state. It’s time to get this done.”
Minnesota’s four neighboring states — North and South Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin — all have legal sports betting up and running. Sports betting is also legal north of the Canadian border in Ontario.
While there’s adequate support in the Minnesota House to authorize sports gambling, a full Senate vote on the expanded gambling has not yet been held.
Time is of utmost importance, as the Legislature nears its 2022 session end. The Senate and House are scheduled to adjourn at the end of business on Monday, May 23.
Chamberlain says his fellow colleagues should act quickly to get sports betting over the finish line.
With the move by Wisconsin to legalize sports wagering, Minnesota is now the only state in our region without a legal option,” Chamberlain explained. “This means Minnesotans must cross our borders to bet on games or find illegal workarounds with online vendors.
“Legalizing betting in the state would mean Minnesotans can bet from their own backyard and know they are doing so in a safe manner,” he concluded.
Minnesota’s native tribes maintain a monopoly on gambling aside from the state-run Minnesota State Lottery. Tribal leaders are seeking to maintain that status quo when it comes to gambling on sports.
The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) says allowing horse racetracks to participate in sports betting is a non-starter. The tribal gaming group is supportive of the House sports betting measure that maintains tribal control on gambling.
“House File 778 is based on a recognition that tribal gaming has an unblemished reputation and expertise in conducting gambling and thus entrusts tribes to exclusively operate as sports betting license holders,” a MIGA letter to the Minnesota Senate read. “But to be clear, MIGA has consistently opposed the expansion of non-tribal commercial gaming and will continue to do so.
“This opposition seeks to protect the gaming industry that today serves as the essential tax base tribal governments and communities rely on,” the MIGA statement ended.
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