Despite Optimism, Minnesota Sports Betting Still Faces Obstacles in 2024

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Sep 5, 2023 12:00 AM
Is Minnesota sports betting on track for 2024 legalization?

Despite closing the last round of legislative sessions with plenty of support among key officials, Minnesota sports betting still faces obstacles ahead of 2024.

To be certain, this is different from saying next year’s inevitable initiative is doomed. On the contrary, the push for sports betting in Minnesota is already making progress months before members from the House of Representatives and Senate actually meet. And given how much traction the most recent bill generated, it’s fair to hope, if not assume, that The Land of 10,000 Lakes will green light legal gambling once and for all in 2024.

Still, the lion’s share of this optimism is largely rooted in the belief that there’s just one major hurdle the state needs to clear. And while that seems accurate relative to how last session’s discussion played out, recent comments from certain officials paint a different picture. 

Officials Still Concerned with Potential Impact of Minnesota Sports Betting on Low-Income Communities  

In many states without legal sports betting, the most potent resistance tends to come from more conservative members of the House and Senate. In Minnesota, the opposition is more balanced. Though the Democrats have been a driving force behind initiatives that would legalize sports betting in Minnesota, they continue to face push back from people in their own party. 

Contrary to situations in other states, this opposition isn’t anchored in any disingenuous political agendas. Instead, it’s more so tied to authentic concern about the impact of sports gambling on at-risk communities. Peter Callaghan recently touched upon this topic in an article for the Minnesota Post:

“At least two Democratic Farmer Labor senators have said they will not support any expansion of gambling.’I am absolutely an N-O vote,’ said Sen. Scott Dibble of Minneapolis. Sen. John Marty of Roseville has also been opposed to expanding gambling. Both cite social justice concerns because they fear the ill-effects of more and easier betting will fall heavily on low-income residents and in communities of color.”

These are legitimate qualms to have. Previous studies have shown that lower-income neighborhoods are more susceptible to predatory gambling practices, such as direct advertising, the placement of retail betting locations, a lack of anti-gambling resources and even targeted high-interest loan programs. Minnesota is far from the only state to take issue with how the legalization of sports betting could exacerbate socioeconomic disparity. Plenty of places without gambling remain split on this very issue. Other states have moved past it by allocating more money and resources to gambling addiction programs. More recently, some places have even started laying out explicit terms that limit how much sports betting companies can advertise. In the case of sports betting in Ohio and sports betting in Massachusetts, the state’s gaming commissions have placed an heavy emphasis on regulatory practices and issued fines for even the most minor violations.

Could next year’s Minnesota sports betting bill succeed by following a similar model? Perhaps. We’ll have to wait and see how the dialogue unfolds when legislative meetings convene. But if the next sports betting proposal isn’t able to sway enough of the Democratic holdouts, it will need more support from the Republican party. 

What Will It Take for Minnesota to Garner More Support for Sports Gambling from Republicans?

Generating more support from the Republicans could prove to be a tall order. On the one hand, the state knows exactly what it’ll take to get that done. On the other hand, the opportunity may be too steep.

Many Republicans want the state’s horse racing tracks to receive Minnesota sports betting licenses as part of any constitutional amendments. Tribal operators, however, have so far rejected this stipulation. They already agreed to terms that would allow the best online sportsbooks in the United States to enter the market. They don’t want to increase the level of competition that could cut into their business model.

Sponsors of the last sports gambling proposal at one point thought they found a reasonable middle ground. They amended the initiative to ensure a percentage of Minnesota sports betting revenue would be given to race tracks. This way, race tracks financially benefited from the legalization of sports gambling without actually infringing upon the business model of tribal operators. In the end, though, the percentage wasn’t large enough to create the required support and the bill failed. 

It isn’t immediately clear where the next round of conversations go from here. While the state could drum up the percentage of revenue that goes to race tracks, additional increases will invariably incite opposition from members of the Democratic party. Remember: Many of them are concerned about the impact gambling will have on lower-income communities. If the state is sending more tax revenue to race tracks, there won’t be as much money available to fund anti-gambling programs and measures. And this says nothing about how Minnesota will want to use the rest of revenue. Increasing the share received by race tracks limits how much can be spent on construction, education and other critical infrastructures. 

This is not to say Minnesota sports betting won’t be legalized in 2024. It definitely could. It might even be more likely than not. But the path to approval, despite lingering optimism, is galaxies away from a given.

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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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