Legislators Reiterate Commitment to Pushing 2024 Minnesota Sports Betting Agenda

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Oct 13, 2023 12:00 AM
Is 2024 the year Minnesota sports betting gets legalized?

The 2023 calendar year is inching toward a close the same way that it opened: with hope that Minnesota sports betting will be legalized during the next round of legislative sessions. 

This will be seen as great news by sports gambling enthusiasts. And, well, it is great news.

At the same time, sports betting in Minnesota has fallen victim to false optimism before. It happened this year. And in 2022. And even in 2021. Indeed, the legalization of Minnesota sports betting has flirted with formality status for years. Each time, though, the most prominent measure has failed to make it out of both the House of Representatives and Senate. (To be sure, these bills have made it out of the House alone. That was the case during 2023 legislative sessions).

None of which means the latest dose of optimism is invalid. On the contrary, next year does, in fact, feel like it could be the year Minnesota sports gambling gets legalized. Not only did this past session’s primary initiative come oh-so-close to required approval, but the eventual structure of the next Minnesota sports betting bill started making progress almost as soon as the 2023 legislative meetings ended.

Why does it seem as if an increasing number of state officials believe Minnesota will legalize online and retails sports gambling in 2024? Let’s find out.

Democratic Control Expected Fuel the Hope of Legal Minnesota Sports Betting in 2024

Party control goes a long way toward shaping the outcome of sports betting discussion. While it’s not an exact science, the Republican party, which features more conservatives, tends to have a higher bar for gambling legalization. And that’s assuming those members aren’t against sports betting altogether.

The Democratic party, on the other hand, is usually more accepting—or at least open to the idea—of legalized sports gambling. That bodes extremely well for Minnesotans who want to see their state enter the sports betting fray. Democrats control every level of government at the moment: The House of Representatives and Senate, as well as the offices of Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General

Granted, Democratic control isn’t always everything. In this case, it might be. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz already approved of the proposed changes to state gaming laws last year, and the Senate, specifically, seems determined to get this year’s bill through.

"If we don't legalize this now when we can get exclusive licenses for the tribes, it will be legalized some time," Minnesota Senator Matt Klein (DFL-Mendota Heights) recently said, per the Star Tribune. "The moment is now."

Tucked between the confidence and optimism of these comments, there is also a clear undertone of caution in Senator Klein’s sentiments. Sure, 2024 might be the best chance Minnesota has to legalize sports betting. But will it also be the state’s last best chance for a while?

Could It Be Now or Never for Minnesota Sports Betting?

Portraying 2024 as Minnesota’s “last” crack at the legalization of sports betting is definitely overdramatic. But failing to capitalize on this opportunity could delay the process by years.

The United States will hold general elections in November 2024. Although Minnesota has become increasingly progressive over time, there’s no guarantee the Democrats continue to control every level of the state government. Parties don’t usually tend to hold this level of control for an indefinite period of time. If you polled a bunch of experts, many of them would probably bet against the DFL party retaining this much of a majority. 

Political control, like most things, is cyclical. Terms in office are never perfect. Voters are conditioned to consider or outright push for change. At least one level of the Minnesota government could be bracing for major overhaul by this time next year. 

Prospective churn, of course, will not altogether kill Minnesota sports betting hopes. But if enough newly elected officials are affiliated with the Republican party, the very nature of partisan politics could make it difficult for all sides to find common ground. 

In that scenario, if Minnesota sports betting isn’t legalized in 2024, it could remain just a hotly debated theory until 2026, 2028 or later.

Last Year’s Attempt to Legalize Sports Gambling in Minnesota Seemed Like It Reached the One-Yard Line

Worrying about what happens to the Minnesota sports betting conversation if it’s not legalized in 2024 is premature. The state must go through next year’s batch of legislative meetings first. After that, if sports gambling still isn’t legalized, it’ll be time to have an awkward conversation.

Many believe it’ll never reach that point, though. The proof, they say, is in last year’s failed attempt. As Rochelle Olson wrote for the Star Tribune: “[Senator Klein’s] late-session bill last session gave each of the state's 11 American Indian tribes the exclusive right to partner with one mobile sports betting platform such as FanDuel or DraftKings.”

This proposal gained serious traction, because it seemed to address all prevailing concerns. Most notably, it legalized the use of online sportsbooks in the United States without over-diluting the market share for tribal operations. 

Heck, Senator Klein’s bill even appeared to settle the race-track issue. The state’s racing facilities wish to have gaming licenses to optimize their revenue in a changing industry climate. The tribes so far won’t allow it. They don’t believe they should have to grapple with additional competition. Last year’s Minnesota sports betting bill tried remedying this by giving race tracks a percentage of the state’s gambling tax revenue. This way, race tracks would be able to share in the profits without directly undercutting tribal bottom lines. 

Ultimately, this solution was unsuccessful. But it’s believed to have come pretty darn close. Equally important: It furthered the dialogue. And now, entering 2024, it sure feels like this is the last piece to the puzzle. If the state can find a common ground for tribes and race tracks, Minnesota sports betting will almost surely be legalized in the coming months.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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