Tribes and Pro Sports Teams Back Latest Minnesota Sports Betting Bill

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Feb 26, 2023 07:00 PM
Tribes and Pro Sports Teams Back Latest Minnesota Sports Betting Bill

After the state's promising push for legal gambling in 2022 was derailed by last-minute disagreements, it seems there's a good chance sports betting comes to Minnesota in the near future. It might even roll out by the end of 2023 or beginning of 2024. That's how encouraging the support for the latest Minnesota sports betting bill seems to be.

According to Torey Van Oot of Axios Twin Cities, "Minnesotans could legally bet on sports at tribal casinos and on their phones under a new proposal that has support from both the state's Native American tribes and its professional sports teams." This represents a big step in the process. Pretty much every Minnesota sports betting bill has been supported by the state's pro sports teams—Minnesota Vikings (NFL), Minnesota Twins (MLB), Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA), Minnesota Lynx (WNBA) and Minnesota Wild (NHL). Tribal stakeholders, however, have routinely pushed back against previous initiatives, often failing to find common ground on the matter of retail sportsbooks.

Does this now mean that legal sports betting in Minnesota is a formality? What are the nitty-gritty details of this new gambling bill? And equally important: Are there any potential hangups that could ruin the current momentum, sort of like what happened last year?

Let's dig in our heels and find the answers to these pressing questions.

2023 Minnesota Sports Betting Bill Grants Tribes Exclusive Rights Over Legal In-Person and Online Gambling

Corporate sportsbooks hoping to crack the Minnesota market will not be fans of this bill's structure. Under the current terms, the state's tribes would be granted exclusivity over legal online sports betting and in-person wagering. Here are the full details, along with some responses from key lawmakers involved in the decision-making process, via Torey Van Oot:

"The proposal introduced this week gives Minnesota's 11 tribal nations exclusive rights to licenses needed to operate both brick-and-mortar and mobile betting. Revenue generated by the industry would be split between enforcement of regulations, addressing and treating gambling problems and youth sports. DFL Rep. Zack Stephenson said at a news conference introducing the bill that the tribes are uniquely positioned to take the lead since they already run gambling operations across the state.

"DFL Sen. Matt Klein, who heads the Senate's commerce and consumer protection committee, said that their involvement signals 'how seriously we take our responsibility to get this done this year.'  The influential Minnesota Indian Gaming Association and a coalition representing leaders of the state's professional sports teams also released letters endorsing the deal.'"

Excluding corporate online sportsbooks from the proposal could complicate its path to approval. But receiving a rubber stamp from the Minnesota Indiana Gaming Association might be a much bigger deal. They have more influence in the state than those lobbying on behalf of corporate online sportsbooks. The support from pro sports teams is paramount, too. Some worried they might flinch at tribal exclusivity given their potential to partner up with heavyweights like DraftKings and FanDuel. The approval from franchises across the spectrum suggests there might be some wiggle room for them to operate or sponsor brick-and-mortar sportsbooks at their venue locations.

Some Roadblocks Continue to Stand in the Way of Minnesota Sports Betting

Even with so much support being shown for the latest Minnesota sports betting bill, the matter still isn't considered a lock to pass through all the necessary committees and then the House and Senate. Retail online sportsbooks could pose an impediment, but the bigger roadblock may be the proposal's decision to exclude race tracks from the list of approved betting locations.

Minnesota race tracks have long pushed to be part of the state's long-term betting plans. They don't believe they'll be able to compete with tribal gambling options if they alone are allowed to offer sports betting. CEO of Running Aces, a track in Minnesota, Taro Ito said in a statement that leaving them out "jeopardizes the future of the horse racing industry in Minnesota."

Mr. Ito may not be wrong. It would be one thing if Minnesota was going to legalize only in-person betting. But it might be game over if tribes are authorized to accept sports bets online. The vast majority of legal wagers placed in the United States during 2022 were processed by one of the top online sportsbooks. Bettors in Minnesota won't be as inclined to visit race tracks if they can just submit transactions from their mobile devices.

Excluding races taking place at the horse tracks from Minnesota online betting options could help limit the bleeding, but it's tough to tell how much that ultimately helps in the long run. Few Minnesotans are looking to wager on horse races over the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, etc. The best way for racing tracks to survive would be to have the ability to offer those options in addition to their catalog horse races.

Outlook on 2023 Minnesota Sports Betting Bill

Despite the issues still at hand, the current sentiment surrounding the 2023 Minnesota sports betting bill can only be described as a step forward.

This is especially true when you consider where things stood to close out 2022. Back in December, it appeared support for Minnesota sports betting was on the decline. That clearly isn't the case now. The new sports betting bill isn't only supported by both tribes and sports teams, but officials have repeatedly noted that discussing the new proposal must be made a priority during legislative meetings.

As for when the Minnesota sports betting bill might be finalized, there is no concrete timetable. State Representative Zack Stephenson said he doesn't expect anything to be settled until April. And that means the future of Minnesota sports betting will likely be determined over the next two months.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs: 

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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