Supporters are Optimistic Minnesota Sports Betting Could be Legalized in 2024

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jul 25, 2023 12:00 AM
Will Minnesota sports betting be legalized in 2024?

Minnesota sports betting could be legalized next year.

Stop us if you heard this one before.

This has become a recurring theme in The Land of 10,000 Lakes: Optimism mounts that sports betting in Minnesota could be legalized at the next round of legislative meetings. A wagering bill is then passed in the House of Representatives. The Senate waffles on the terms of the initiative. Then, however, they make progress on passing the proposal. Invariably, though, the sports betting bill gets rejected. Pessimism about the future of sports gambling in Minnesota mounts. But then a few months go by. At that time, reports will begin to surface that sponsors of the last Minnesota sports betting bill are hopeful the next measure will be passed in the following year.

Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

This is why we recommend taking any and all Minnesota sports betting news with a metric ton of salt. We will believe an initiative makes it through the House of Representatives and State Senate and onto a general election ballot when it actually happens. And yet, right on schedule, officials in Minnesota are claiming this time could be different. Should we believe them?

Sports Betting Sponsors in Minnesota Think 2024 will be the Year Legal Gambling Gets Over the Hump

This year, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party (DFL), led the charge to legalize sports gambling in The Land of 10,000 Lakers. Representative John Huot, a DFL sponsor of HF 2000, was among the most active advocates. He is once again leading the push to legalize sports betting by 2024 in Minnesota.

“I’m optimistic it will happen,” Huot recently told Legal Sports Report's Pat Evans. “It really sits with the negotiations between the tribes and the tracks and make sure they’re in a comfortable space and work together and get the best for us. There is a group us that want to get this past the finish line, but what we don’t want is infighting between the tribes and the state.”

Other members of the DFL party share in Huot's optimism. Representative Zach Stephenson, who spearheaded a 2022 bill that fell short, is equally hopeful. So, too, is House Speaker Melissa Hortman, who recently confirmed the DFL will redouble their efforts to get sports gambling approved.

“If the Minnesota legislature was a football game, we’re like two minutes before the end of the first half, and then we’ll have an interim,” Hortman said when asked if sports betting was dead, per Legal Sports Report. “We’ll go home, we will rest and recover and we’ll work on a lot of these bills during the interim and we’ll come back and have another session, we believe, starting around February 12 (2024).”

Why are DFL Leaders in Minnesota So Optimistic About the Future of Sports Betting?

While rosy sports gambling projections must be approached with at least kernels of skepticism, the DFL's optimism isn't unjustified. This past year was the closest Minnesota sports betting came to approval. Plenty of turning-point issues were hashed out before the bill ultimately fell short.

Many of the details from HF 2000 are expected to carry over into 2024 meetings. That means the 11 Minnesota tribes will have exclusive access to sports betting, including online wagering. This comes as a blow to some of the best online sportsbooks in the United States wishing to enter the market with independent licenses, but it's expected they would be able to strike up partnerships with tribes that wish to outsource operations of their mobile betting apps.

Getting the tribes to sign off on this framework was a massive win. They have exclusive control over gaming rights in the state and could technically seek to legalize in-person sports betting without a constitutional amendment. Opening the door to online sports betting shows flexibility that isn't necessarily present in other states.

Still, at least one defining obstacle remains. And it just so happens to be the roadblock that derailed 2023 Minnesota sports betting efforts.

The Future of Minnesota Sports Hinges on Tribes and Race Tracks

When this year's Minnesota sports betting bill once again failed to pass, its biggest shortcoming was a familiar pitfall: tribes and race tracks could not get on the same page.

In past negotiations, horse racing tracks insisted they should be granted Minnesota sports betting licenses. While some officials supported their stance, the state's tribes vehemently disagreed. They argued it would compromise their business model, and that they were making enough concessions by agreeing to the legalization of online sports betting.

This time around, the tribes and the state agreed to disperse 30 percent of all sports betting revenue among Minnesota's race tracks. This way, tribes didn't have to compete with other sports betting operators and the race tracks weren't entirely excluded from the financial benefits. The framework was widely celebrated. Professional sports franchises sent in statements voicing their support, and HF 2000 made it through both the House of Representatives and Senate Committee (not the actual Senate) with flying colors.

Ultimately, though, the race tracks wanted more than 30 percent of the sports betting revenue or to be awarded sports gambling licenses. This was, of course, a no-go for tribes—and the primary reason Minnesota's 2023 sports betting bill wound up flopping.

That makes the future of sports gambling in Minnesota something of a double-edged sword. The state certainly made significant progress on the issue—enough to justify optimism leading into 2024. But unless they can get race tracks on board with the current compensation structure, Minnesota could be headed for another standoff next year.

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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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