The Latest Bill to Legalize Minnesota Sports Betting has Officially Failed

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jun 19, 2024 12:00 AM
After initial optimism that Minnesota sports betting could be legalized in 2024, the latest bill to do so has officially fallen short.

Well, it’s official: The push to legalize Minnesota sports betting in 2024 has failed. 

A few months ago, this would have seemed like a somewhat shocking outcome. Optimism surrounding the future of sports betting in Minnesota prior to legislative sessions reached an all-time high. In fact, many painted the legalization of sports gambling in the North Star State as a formality. It became, in some circles, inevitable.

That hopefulness wasn’t necessarily misplaced. There were reasons to believe Minnesota would push sports betting over the hump this year. After all, the topic seemingly came close to a resolution in 2023. The groundwork had been laid. It has been laid.

And yet, in the end, the North State’s sports betting legislation failed. Again. What went wrong? Can it be resolved moving forward? And what do the latest results say about the timeline for sports betting legalization in Minnesota?

Let’s wade into the fallout. 

Why Did Minnesota Sports Betting Efforts Flop This Time?

Failed attempts to legalize online sports betting are never about one thing. It’s always a variety of issues that derail campaigns. 

Minnesota’s most recent sports betting push is no different. A variety of roadblocks ended up in the way. In particular, the trajectory started going haywire following the bizarre arrest of Minnesota State Senator Nicole Mitchell. Then again, this curveball was more like an extension of other problems. Senator Mitchell’s arrest became problematic because she’s a Democrat who supported the bill. At the time, the party was hard-pressed for Minnesota sports betting votes. Her potential absence didn’t create a tailpin but furthered one already in progress. (Mitchell ultimately returned to the Senate floor.)

In reality, the overarching dialogue reached multiple impasses. Jessica Welman of SBC America expanded upon some of them:

“Sports betting was just one piece of several moving parts related to gaming this legislative session. Another bill, sponsored by [State Representative Zack] Stephenson, that explicitly prohibits historical horse racing at state tracks did pass before the legislature concluded for the year. The bill came as a response to a decision by the Minnesota Gaming Commission to greenlight HHR machines at Runnings Aces and Canterbury Park. When the bill was debated at the committee level, lawmakers disagreed over whether this bill or a legal challenge from The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in the courts was the best way to debate the legality of the commission’s decision…Historical horse racing as well as expanded table games at the state’s cardrooms are both bargaining chips along with sports betting as the various interested parties pick up negotiations next year.

This looms as a pretty substantial set of issues. And they’re not the only ones.

Additional Factors that Contributed to Failed Sports Wagering Legalization in Minnesota

Moral opposition, contrary gaming agendas and the threat of filibustering all played a part in halting Minnesota sports betting hopes. However, another driving factor stands out more than anything.

By the end of this year’s sessions, a group of senators successfully amended the bill to ban in-game betting. This is a huge deal. Live betting is a huge part of the sports gambling business model. Excluding those wagers would have significantly limited the offerings top online sportsbooks in the United States could provide. By extension, it would also eat into Minnesota’s potential revenue.

As such, this amendment proved to be the death knell for the initiative. Not only did it align with those opposed to sports betting in Minnesota, but it left many pro-gamblers unlikely to support it. 

For some, the legalization of sports betting without live wagering makes zero sense. Sure, in theory, they could just add it later. But that requires extra steps. Legalizing this bill under these tools may have locked the state into a very specific, uniquely limited form of sports betting. 

Policymakers Remain Optimistic that Minnesota Sports Betting Could Prevail in 2025

Many supporters of this bill did not hide their disdain for the results once legislative sessions adjourned. Some, though, are maintaining an optimistic outlook.

“We're going to come up just short on the sports betting bill this year,” Rep. Stephenson posted on X (formerly Twitter). “But in the last few days we proved that we could find a deal that all the major stakeholders could live with.  Tribes, tracks, charities...That's meaningful progress that can be a foundation for the future.

Nothing Stephenson says here is untrue. Finding a middle ground with tribes and tracks is an especially big development. Last year’s attempt to legalize gambling was undermined by a disagreement over whether tracks should be allowed to have sports betting licenses. Tribes didn’t want to compete with both online sportsbooks in the USA as well as Minnesota racetracks. They preferred to give racetracks a cut of the sports betting tax revenue as a substitute for licensing. That wasn’t enough for the tracks, and from there, the Minnesota sports gambling bill from 2023 didn’t stand a chance.

If the North Star State overcame this hurdle in 2024, there can be no downplaying. It certainly sets the stage for a more amicable negotiation in 2025.

Still, we’ve heard this spiel before. It has happened every time Minnesota sports betting falls by the wayside. Sponsors and overall supporters paint the failed attempt as progress. The next year rolls around. Optimism is peaking. Legislative sessions begin. And then, everything falls apart.

So forgive us for not quite buying the rosy outlook in Minnesota sports betting. The skepticism is well earned. And frankly, we’ll believe Minnesota sports gambling is legalized in 2025 when we actually see it.

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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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