Minnesota Sports Betting May Be Taking Another Step Toward Legalization

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Nov 10, 2023 12:00 AM
A prominent gaming operator has spoken with casinos about the possibility of Minnesota sports betting arriving in 2024.

The push for Minnesota sports betting in 2024 is continuing to chug along. And it sounds like it’s getting serious.

Multiple reports have already surfaced stating that Minnesota legislators intend to heavily push legal sports betting when they meet next. Of course, this can be standard fare. The Land of 10,000 Lakes has repeatedly tried to legalize sports gambling. Another push was all but guaranteed entering next year.

Still, there’s no denying that this time feels different. The latest news is part of that. IGT, a prominent gaming operator, has reportedly spoken with numerous Minnesota casinos about rolling out their sports betting technology when the state legalizes it. The operative word here is “when.” Not if, but when. That’s a big deal. 

Granted, these talks aren’t necessarily predictive. But they weren’t happening last year, at least not this publicly. 

Why is IGT’s interest in The Land of 10,000 Lakers market so interesting? Is it a signal of what’s to come for sports betting in Minnesota? What obstacles are still facing next year’s (assumed) sports gambling bill? These are the questions we’re here to answer.

Details of IGT’s Interest in the Minnesota Sports Betting Market

What is IGT? The company’s full name is International Gaming Technology, and they do exactly what you think: Provide gaming technology across the globe to gambling operators. Their specialties include sports betting kiosks, which have become increasingly popular at retail sports betting locations in the United States. These automated machines help streamline the transaction process. User interfaces are intuitive and fast, and they are an alternative to manned cashiers.

More recently, IGT has started to branch out in the United States—specifically in the midwest. That explains their interest in the prospective Minnesota sports betting market. Here is Nick Williams of the Star Tribune with more on the reported talks between IGT and Minnesota casinos: 

“Legalized sports betting in Minnesota could potentially generate millions for casinos in the state. But the casinos aren't the only ones waiting for the Legislature to take it up again this spring. So are the companies providing the backbone of the operations such as International Game Technology, or IGT, a London-based company behind lottery and casino gaming machines.’It's something we talk to operators in Minnesota about when we see them, either if somebody goes up to Minnesota to see what's happening locally, or casino operators that travel to Las Vegas and we see them at industry conferences," said Joe Asher, IGT's president of sports betting.

“As the industry consolidates, IGT has been adding steadily to its list of locations for its sports betting kiosks, particularly in the Upper Midwest. This past summer, IGT became the new provider of sports betting systems at St. Croix Casinos in Turtle Lake and Danbury in Wisconsin. St. Croix is the first location for IGT's PeakBar Top machines, which have betting, poker and slot games all in one.”

Does IGT’s Talks with Minnesota Casinos Say Anything About What’s to Come? 

Given the proximity of IGT’s other operations in the midwest, this could just be run-of-the-mill due diligence by both parties. Clearly, it sounds like IGT has been monitoring the Minnesota sports betting process for at least a couple of years.

But publicly speaking on it like this says a whole lot in our estimation.

Conversations between Minnesota tribal casinos and IGT would lack substance if sports betting legalization in 2024 wasn’t a distinct possibility. The fact that it seems as if the sides have discussed the rollout of specific machines and systems seems pretty telltale.

Let’s also not forget that this could be a natural progression given how last year’s attempt to legalize sports betting in Minnesota unfolded. The state came as close as ever to passing a sports gambling bill through the House of Representatives and Senate. While yet another failure was seen as a disappointment among many officials, the “almost” of it all ensured there would be momentum when the issue cropped up again in 2024. 

At this point, it feels like the real surprise would be if Minnesota sports betting does not get legalized next year. But this raises an interesting question: If that’s the case, why didn’t it pass through last year? 

Negotiations Between Horse Racing Tracks and Tribal Casinos Could Hold Key to Minnesota Sports Betting

Last year’s attempt to legalize sports betting throughout Minnesota ultimately came up short because race tracks wanted to be included in the bill. The state’s tribal casinos pushed back against this stance. 

Both sides had their merits. On the one hand, race tracks are already battling the surging popularity of online sports betting in the United States. Gamblers are far more likely to place wagers on their mobile devices or computers than they are to visit a race track. It makes sense that they want to be protected against financial extinction.

On the other hand, tribal casinos correctly pointed out that allowing additional Minnesota sports betting licenses would eat into their share of gaming revenue. Though this wouldn’t be an issue if The Land of 10,000 Lakers was only legalizing on-site wagering, last year’s bill would have allowed online sportsbooks in the United States to enter the market as independent operators. Competing with them will be hard enough. Adding yet another option for bettors would compromise the casinos’ market share.

Initially, it looked like there could be a compromise. Language was added to the bill that allocated some of the Minnesota sports betting revenue directly to race tracks. This way, they benefited from the legalization of sports gambling without jeopardizing the business model of casinos. 

In the end, the idea wasn’t enough to get the legislation over the hump. But if Minnesota casinos are this engaged with IGT and the services they offer, it stands to reason tribal operators are confident they can find common ground in 2024. And so, as of now, we’d personally bet on the next Minnesota sports gambling bill making it through both the House and Senate. 

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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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