Minnesota Sports Betting Bill Passes Second House Committee

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Despite opposition, the Minnesota sports betting bill continues its journey to the finishing line as it passes another House committee stage. On Tuesday, the House State Government Finance and Elections Committee voted 7-5 to approve HB 778.

Sponsored by Rep. Zack Stephenson, the bill had passed comfortably through its first committee when the Stephenson-led Commerce Committee approved it 14-4 last week. HB 778 saw two Finance and Elections Committee meetings on Tuesday before getting a divided vote in the second committee.

The amended sports betting bill now heads to the Judiciary Committee. If passed, the bill could pave the way for statewide online sports betting.

What Changes HB 778 Could Bring?

HB 778 seeks to create two master sports wagering licenses for entities formed of two tribes or more. The master licenses would then award 11 digital sports wagering licenses, one for each of The Gopher State’s tribes.

It essentially means the Stephenson-led proposal would only allow Minnesota sports betting in Native American casinos and via mobile devices, and those entities partnered with the tribes.

Currently, the people use what Stephenson said “shady websites” and other means to wager in the state, “What this bill is about is creating a legal marketplace, that will not only displace that black market but also provide consumer protection.”

Legal Age to Increase to 21

The Minnesota sports betting will see one important amendment before it goes to the full House vote. The original bill would have allowed legal sports betting for anyone 18 or older in the state. But following the opposition, Stephenson promised his colleagues that an amendment raising the legal age from 18 to 21 would be introduced in the next committee.

According to state law, anyone 18 or above can gamble in casinos.

All stakeholders, including those who oppose the bill, were heard during the virtual hearing on Tuesday.

Anne Krisnik of the Joint Religious Legislation Coalition expressed joy to hear the change to increase the gambling age but added that the entity feels very strongly that Minnesota sports betting should be limited to in-person gambling.

Another opponent raised the compulsive gambling problem issue, which he said could increase following the legislation of sports betting in the state.

What are the Concerns of Other Stakeholders?

But others oppose HB 778 because of its exclusive nature of picking winners and losers as it would allow sports betting to tribal casinos but not to other stakeholders. There are 11 federally recognized tribes in the Gopher State.

Those left out include Electronic Gaming Group Executive Director Sam Krueger, who said they are not against sports betting, but “opposed to allowing tribes to continue to be in charge without giving charities a reasonable path.”

Krueger said the tribes are not the only game in town, adding that the House Bill is picking winners and losers in the sports betting industry. He appreciated that the bill would fund youth sports but added that their charities support more than that. He said they would ask and continue to ask that his organization and others like it be included in this conversation.

Rep. Duane Quam saw the “biggest issue” with HB 778 is that it fails to address the “excessive taxation added to charitable gaming.”

However, the sponsor of the bill said his measure is about regulating an industry to address legitimate issues, adding he does not stipulate it be a financial windfall for Minnesota.

How Have We Reached Here?

In Nov. 2021, Stephenson announced he would lead a sports wagering to push the coming session. The measure follows months of discussion with stakeholders in Minnesota, including tribes, professional sports teams, racetracks, and universities.

Rep. Jon Koznick seeks the inclusion of the state’s two horse racing tracks in the measure. The Senate proposal, which is yet to see its first committee stage, includes the tracks.

However, Minnesota Indian Gaming Association is pleased with the general outlines of the HB 778. The MIGA, which represents 10 of the 11 Minnesota tribes, had been opposed to the state’s inclusion of sports betting in the past.

The Association’s Executive Director Andy Platto said MIGA would continue to monitor any changes to the House Bill.

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