Minnesota Sports Betting Bill Heads to House Floor Vote

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The long-awaited Minnesota sports betting is headed to the House floor after clearing its fifth committee on Thursday. It is the farthest a sports betting bill has ever made it through in the Gopher State.

The House Ways & Means Committee approved HF 778 by a 14-7 vote on Thursday.

The bill – sponsored by Rep. Zak Stephenson – has already cleared the Commerce, Finance and Public Policy and State Government Finance and the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committees, and the House Taxes Committee.

HF 778 would legalize statewide online betting at Minnesota’s 11 tribes, which would keep all the proceeds from their casinos, besides obtaining 5% of the money wagered online.

Any major operators can extend mobile betting services in Minnesota after tethering with one of the tribes.

Though the House could take up the bill for a potential vote as soon as today, no schedule has been announced yet.

Committee Voted Against a Tax Amendment

On Thursday, the committee voted against an amendment proposed by Rep. Tim Miller, who sought to eradicate a 10% tax on gross gaming revenue.

Stephenson said he appreciated Miller’s intent but added that without taxation, the state would be forced to subsidize the industry.

A 10% tax is a moderate rate compared to most other sports betting industries. Some of the revenue would be used to run the sports betting industry. The rest of the amount would be spent on youth sports and problem gambling.

Stephenson often says that Minnesota isn’t in dire need of increased tax revenue. However, he reiterates that sports betting must be regulated to reduce the black market and to generate funds for problem gambling.

Next Steps

The House floor is the long-awaited next stop for the bill, which Stephenson conceived in November 2021. It began its journey in the House Commerce Committee in the first week of March 2022.

HF 778 still needs to clear the House before reaching the Senate. The Minnesota state legislature adjourns May 23, which means the two chambers have just a few weeks to get the bill to the finishing line.

The House is expected to approve the bill, but there could be some holdups in the upper chamber, where a mirror bill is pending.

Stephenson’s proposal would allow retail sports betting at Minnesota tribal casinos, besides creating up to two master mobile sports betting licenses for the tribes. An organization made up of two or more tribes would hold those mobile licenses.

Each tribe under that master license would be allowed to contract with an online sportsbook platform provider.

While Stephenson’s bill would keep mobile sports betting among the 11 Minnesota tribes, it will deprive the state’s racetracks of offering sports wagering in any capacity.

Senate Bill Seeks an Inclusive Approach

The Senate has a competing bill – SB 574 – that would allow Minnesota’s tribes and racetracks to offer sports betting in the state. If the bill clears the House, the Senate debate over the sports betting control could be the biggest challenge ahead.

Previous efforts to legalize sports wagering without allowing tribes 100% control have all failed. The Minnesota tribes are not likely to support anything short of exclusive control.

In February, a group of the state senators held a news conference to unveil their plans for a bill. Sen. Roger Chamberlain led the Senate efforts.

The Senate proposal includes the state’s two horse racing tracks.

Chamberlain then said they have two opposing pieces and said, “we’ll find out what we can live with and what we can’t.”

Both chambers must approve the same bill by May 23 – the final day of the legislative session.

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