Sports Betting in Minnesota: How Legal Gambling Can Make It to Land of 10,000 Lakes

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Sports Betting in Minnesota: How Legal Gambling Can Make It to Land of 10,000 Lakes

The last significant update for sports betting in Minnesota was not a good one. A proposed bill to legalize sports betting throughout the state of Minnesota stalled at the most basic committee level, all but guaranteeing the Land of 10,000 Lakes would not be rolling out online or in-person wagering anytime soon. More recently, though, there has been optimism that Minnesota's next attempt at the legalization of sports betting will go through.

Before we say anything else, we must caution you take this optimism with a grain of salt. Minnesota isn't set to discuss or vote on the topic of sports betting in the near future. 

Still, as CBS News noted when the latest sports betting law was proposed, there was a lot more support for the legalization of Minnesota sports betting in 2022 than in year's past. Multiple informal polls actually show a majority of state residents favor some type of sports betting, if not a clean sweep of approval.

Government officials appeared to take this into account during their brief committee discussions this past spring. They discussed different compromises and models that could be implemented in an attempt to satisfy both sides of the argument. Merely approaching this issue from a "How can we resolve it?" standpoint is a major victory. At the very least, it sure as heck beats dismissing legal sports betting altogether.

However, two major question remains. Why isn't their sports betting in Minnesota yet? And what compromises is the state proposing to ensure that changes down the line? Let's answer them now.

Why Isn't There Sports Betting in Minnesota Yet?

When the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that legal sports betting would be left up to each individual state, the decision was seen as a huge victory for gambling supporters. And for the most part, it was absolutely a big-time win. More than 30 states in the USA have since rolled out some form of legal sports betting, in addition to Washington, D.C.

For Minnesota specifically, though, the Supreme Court ruling complicated their path to legal online gambling. Due to their gaming compact with various tribes throughout the state, Minnesota needs both local government approval and the cooperation of the 11 federally recognized tribes.

Gaining unanimous support on any issue is difficult. But this one, in particular, is especially hard.

Tribes are more than willing to support legal sports betting in Minnesota—so long as they're the only ones who are allowed to offer it. They don't want commercial online sportsbooks like FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars, etc., being allowed to operate within the state. They argue these entities only wind up costing Minnesota potential profit. 

To be sure, the tribes have a point. Commercial online sportsbooks don't create jobs in the state. They aren't physically based out of Minnesota. But the tribes also just don't want to deal with the competition. Even if these commercial sportsbooks operated right out of the Twin Cities, physical casinos don't want to go head-to-head with the online footprint of established companies that have the capacity to spend more money on advertising and just generally reach a larger clientele.

What Compromises Is Minnesota Proposing?

Two different counters to tribal concerns have been proposed to try getting sports betting in Minnesota over the hump.

The first is the most unique. Minnesota would grant sports betting licenses to the 11 tribal casinos, who would then have the authority to issue "sub-licenses" to the online sportsbook of their choice. These sites would pay each individual tribe a licensing fee and then also be taxed on their revenue at a higher rate than the casinos accepting bets within the state. 

For example, let's say an online sportsbook wanted the ability to accept wagers within Minnesota. They would need to link up with one of the licensed tribal casinos to do so, thereby creating a partnership that would allow brick-and-mortar locations to capitalize on digital gambling without needing to assemble their own infrastructure. Commercial sportsbooks have predictably opposed this structure; they argue it's too punitive. But companies like FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and all those Fat Cats have ponied up for similar sub-licensing fees in other states. 

Online retail sportsbooks aren't the only ones against this proposal, either. Select tribes have remained opposed, as well. They believe that the licensing fees should be based on the revenue generated by each online sportsbook rather than a one-size-fits-all fee that's presumably assessed yearly.

The other compromise making the rounds, according to multiple outlets, isn't nearly as popular. Some lawmakers have proposed legalizing sports betting for in-person transactions only, but then opening the business up to commercial online retailers after a year or two. Supporters maintain this would give the state's casinos time to perfect their own roll out while building up goodwill among potential customers. But the tribes continue to push back on this notion, citing the dramatic uptick in online gaming over the past four years. Most betting on sports now takes place online, which functionally means brick-and-mortar operations stand little chance against online operators.

The Future of Sports Betting in Minnesota

At this point, it still seems like sports betting in Minnesota has a long way to go. Until the state gets wider spread tribal support, the very concept of legal gambling will remain a fantasy.

This can be frustrating for anyone in Minnesota who wants to bet on sports. But for those people, there are options. Not only can they travel to one of the neighboring states with legal sports betting to place their wager; they can set up an account with one of the sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks—many of which have been known to accept wagers from almost any location in the U.S.

Failing that, the next time sports betting in Minnesota will be on the government's menu is at the 2024 legislature sessions. The state can always elevate the issue to mission-critical and discuss it before then. Right now, however, it sure looks like sports betting in Minnesota will remain illegal for the new two years—if not more.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide which one works for all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

Online Sports Betting may receive compensation if you sign up through our links. Rest assured, we avoid biases and provide honest opinions on sportsbooks. Read more here.