A bill that would have legalized sports betting in Minnesota by the end of 2022 recently failed to get through the legislative sessions. The news comes as a letdown for many within the state who had hoped to reap the benefits of potential tax revenue, as well as those who wished to partake in legal sports betting by the start of the 2022 NFL season. And while this development certainly doesn't mean sports betting will never come to Minnesota, it's tough to figure out when the current tides will change.
Well, it's official: Minnesota legal sports betting is off the table in 2022.
The news, while not unexpected, still registers as a letdown. Each attempt to get sports betting in Minnesota has been shot down over the past few years. This repeated opposition wasn't as much of a story when legal sports betting in the United States remained the exception rather than the rule. But it's borderline inexplicable, and at the very least mega curious, when the majority of the states in the USA have now legalized sports betting in some form.
Optimists will be quick to point out that all hope is not lost. Minnesota could still green light online sports betting over time. But when? And equally important: What's stopping them from doing so now? And what should we expect as part of the fallout from the latest failure?
Why Minnesota Sports Betting Bill Lost Steam at Legislative Session
At the heart of Minnesota's sports betting issue is a simple dispute: control of the market.
The most recent sports betting bill, known as HF 778, stipulated that the state's 11 recognized tribes alone would have the power to apply for and acquire sports betting licenses. Their proposal included a 10 percent gaming tax that experts estimate would have amounted to a $5.6 million windfall for Minnesota in 2024. That total would have then more than doubled, to $12.3 million, in 2025.
This structure, of course, doesn't sit well with the larger corporate sportsbooks that operate outside the state. Places like FanDuel, DraftKings, and Caesars have spent millions of dollars on lobbyists to fight proposals like HF 778 that afforded the state-sanctioned tribes a monopoly on the sports betting racket.
It isn't clear how much support the bigger sportsbooks threw behind attempts to derail this latest bill. Their involvement wasn't technically the hangup. The Senate shot down HF 778 as currently constructed and proposed an addendum that would have allowed local racetracks and sports teams such as the Minnesota Vikings (NFL), Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA), Minnesota Lynx (WNBA), Minnesota Twins (MLB) and Minnesota Wild (NHL) to apply for sports betting licenses.
All of Minnesota's tribes pulled their support of HF 778 in response to this change, with Andy Platto, the executive director of the Minnesota Indiana Gaming Association, releasing the following statement in a letter to the Senate Finance Committee: "HF 778 is based on the recognition that tribal gaming has an unblemished reputation and expertise in conducting gambling and thus entrusts tribes to exclusively operate as sports betting license holders. But to be clear, MIGA has consistently opposed the expansion of non-tribal commercial gaming and will continue to do so."
Will Minnesota Tribes Budge on Commercial Sports Betting?
By pulling their support of HF 778, Minnesota's tribes effectively torpedoed the bill in its entirety. Now, with the latest legislative session having adjourned for the year on Monday, May 23, the state won't realistically have the chance to address sports betting again until 2023. And just because it will still be a hot-button issue by next year that doesn't mean anything will change. Minnesota needs the tribes to budge if they're going to legalize sports betting at a commercial level.
This dilemma isn't specific to Minnesota, either. Tribes in California are concerned about the introduction of commercial sportsbooks, which has thus far halted the legalization process. And just so we're clear, the arguments being made by the tribes are not unfounded. Online sportsbooks with a national and global reach like FanDuel and DraftKings have a larger and more established digital presence. Residents within the state are bound to flock to their online sportsbooks and the lucrative promotions they offer if given the opportunity. We have seen it play out like this in every state, and tribes are concerned they won't be able to keep pace.
In Minnesota's case, commercial sports betting wouldn't technically be okay under the proposed addendum to HF 778. But who do you think professional sports teams will be partnering with to operate sportsbooks? You guessed it. It'll be the likes of FanDuel, Draftkings, Caesars, BetMGM, etc. The addendum made to HF 778 essentially opened the door for commercial sports betting, even if it didn't outright legalize it.
The Next Step for Minnesota Sports Betting
When push comes to shove, sports betting will eventually be legalized in Minnesota. The tribes can only hold off the money being funneled into commercial sportsbook campaigns for so long. They might even be witnessing their future play out in California, where voters will have the opportunity to choose between two bills on November's ballot. One would legalize sports betting licenses only for the state's tribes; the other would open the door for commercial sportsbooks, as well.
That isn't much of a solution when you think about it. The commercial sports betting bills are always more likely to pass when they hit a state's ballot. But there are things that can be done to make the working relationship between tribes and corporate entities more copacetic. Some states limit the number of licenses they give out to commercial sportsbooks while also charging them higher gaming fees. Others have invited partnerships between the two; there are some corporate sportsbooks that operate the online product for tribal casinos in exchange for a split of the profits.
Is that what's destined to happen in Minnesota? We can't be sure. But the sports betting industry is too profitable for Minnesota not to eventually enter it. As it stands, there are already a ton of residents within the state placing bets. They can't exactly shop through our reviews of the top online sportsbooks, set up an account and start betting, but VPN services and illegal bookmakers are available in heavy supply.
Believe us, then, when we say this latest decision is costing every party involved millions—the state of Minnesota, the tribes, even the corporate sportsbooks.
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