Minnesota Sports Betting Legalization ‘Out of Time’ for 2023

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It looks like lawmakers pushing for a legal sports betting market in Minnesota are headed for disappointment. The close of this year’s legislative session approaches on May 22 and no deal is in place.

“I think we are probably out of time,” Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman said of the sports betting proposal during a press conference.

Before a proposal for new legislature can be fully considered by the House and Senate chambers, it must pass a series of committees where it is discussed and fine-tuned.

Away from the Floor

In this case, it doesn’t look like a majority of lawmakers consider sports betting a pressing enough issue to finalize an agreed bill before the session closes.

Hortman summed up the House sentiment on Thursday.

“In the House, it has two or three more committees. We are not going to be able to take people away from the floor to have that move through the committees that it would need to,” she said, as reported by the Pioneer Press.

The Minnesota house is currently considering several major bills before the close of the session. That includes unfinalized bills from the $72 billion, two-year budget proposal, such as a $2 billion climate and energy bill.

Obtaining the bipartisan support any sports betting proposal needs is a complicated and lengthy process.

Treated Fairly

A key dispute mostly dividing the aisle is who gets to run any legal sports betting market.

Democrats mostly favor Minnesota’s 11 Native American tribes for the role in a partnership model with national online betting operators.

Republicans are concerned about the effect on the state’s traditional horse racing market. They want horse racing tracks to either benefit from or be allowed to run sportsbooks.

Four states currently tie legal gambling operations to existing horse racing tracks, including nearby Nebraska.

“If this bill is passed, all constituents, the racetracks and the Native American casinos, need to be treated fairly,” said Tracie Wilson, chief financial officer for Running Aces, a Columbus-based horse race and casino betting operator.

Horse Racing Fund

Senator Matt Klein (DFL – Mendota Heights) introduced a modification to try and solve the argument. He suggested 10% of any legal sports betting market’s revenues could be earmarked for state horse racing tracks via an economic development fund. That includes a $20 million initial grant, and then $3 million a year from sports betting taxes after that.

However, Senator Klein’s suggestion came too late in the session to make it through the required committees.

Minnesota’s neighboring states all offer legalized sports betting in some form. Despite having tribal casinos, pari-mutuel horse race betting, and the Minnesota State Lottery already available, lawmakers in The North Star State have historically not shown much interest in a full sports betting market.

The state was the first in the US to introduce Native American tribal casino gaming in the late 1980s. However, it spectacularly failed in negotiating tax contracts with the Tribes – an event that still colors political relations on the topic of gambling in the current day.

Related: Our expert guide to Minnesota gambling laws

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