Minnesota sports betting discussions continue in Saint Paul, but the clock is ticking on the Legislature’s 2022 session.
The Minnesota House of Representatives on Thursday passed House File 778. The bill would legalize sports betting at tribal casinos and via online sportsbooks. The mobile operators would be required to partner with tribal-owned entities.
HF 778 passed the House with bipartisan support yesterday 70-57. The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration, but with only two weeks remaining before lawmakers are to adjourn for the year, Senators will need to work quickly if Minnesotans are to have legal sports betting outlets in 2022.
The Senate hasn’t been overly active on its own sports betting bill. Many Senators have expressed their beliefs that sports betting — which would essentially be Minnesota’s first approval of commercial gambling aside from its state-run lottery — would do more harm than good.
The Minnesota Senate has its own sports betting bill that is nearly a clone of HF 778. But the upper chamber hasn’t been nearly as eager to move forward its statute.
The House and Senate sports betting bills have one major difference. While the Senate sports betting would similarly legalize retail sportsbooks at tribal casinos and online sports betting, so long as the internet platforms are tethered to a tribal casino entity, the chamber’s bill would additionally allow horse racetracks to incorporate on-site sports gambling.
Some lawmakers, however, are being pressured by faith leaders, primarily the Legislature’s Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, to stop the effort to bring commercial and online gambling to Minnesota.
We strongly oppose any consideration of gambling expansion and call upon you to refrain from any discussion of additional gambling,” a recent letter from the coalition to Gov. Tim Walz (D) and members of the legislature read.
Backers of the sports betting effort say sports betting is already occurring in Minnesota through the unregulated black market. Legalizing the activity, supporters say, will better protect consumers, infiltrate bad actors, and provide new tax revenue.
“What this bill is about is creating a legal marketplace that will displace that black market, and in doing so provide consumer protection, ensure the integrity of the game, and limit money laundering and other illicit activity,” said Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL-Coon Rapids).
The Minnesota Legislature’s 2022 session is to adjourn at the end of business on Monday, May 23. That leaves only six session days for the Senate and House to work out their sports betting differences. Along with where such gambling would occur, the chambers have not addressed proposed tax rates and licensing fees.
If the stakeholders can come together and try to find some common ground where there are opportunities available at the tribal casinos as well as the tracks, and perhaps if there’s something we can do to help benefit our charities, I think agreement could still get done this session,” Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) told the Star Tribune. “But we’re running out of time for that to happen.”
Each of Minnesota’s four neighbors — North and South Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin — all have legal sports betting operational.
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