Shortly after the November 2022 elections, it looked like Minnesota sports betting support was on the decline. Granted, this was speculative. Multiple polls suggested the sentiment on gambling was shifting toward the negative end of the spectrum. But we didn't know whether these samples accurately represented Minnesota's legal sports betting views.
Now that we're officially in 2023, though, we can say it with absolute certainty: Support for sports betting in Minnesota is declining, and the longer-term outlook on the subject doesn't look so great.
On the contrary, the future of Minnesota legal sports betting appears downright bleak. Not only that, but there's zero optimism the trajectory will change.
Why is that, you ask? It's a great question. And the answer will be both frustrating and unsettling to sports betting enthusiasts throughout the state.
Minnesota Legal Sports Betting is Facing Complications and Obstacles Galore
In 2022, Minnesota's legal sports betting was a formality for a short while. Even when it failed to gain enough traction, the prevailing belief was that the stakeholders involved were close to a middle ground and would reach an agreement by the end of 2023 at the absolute latest.
Well, um, so much for that. As it turns out, Minnesota sports betting is more of a divisive issue than we were initially led to believe. The stakeholders involved aren't merely haggling over minor details or tiny concessions. They battle over who will oversee sports betting operations if and when they are legalized. Rochelle Olson broke down the latest for the Minnesota Star Tribune on January 8:
"A bill to legalize Minnesota sports betting could stall due to the basic question of who gets to run the sports betting operations—and reap the profits. The goal isn't to build new brick-and-mortar casinos but to get a license to 'partner with a mobile gambling platform, such as FanDuel, DraftKings, or Caesars, to get a slice of the revenue.
"[Minnesota ] Vikings Executive Vice President of Public Affairs Lester Bagley said it 'seems inevitable that Minnesota is going to pass sports betting this year or next and therefore we will be at the table to help shape legislation.' However, so will the ten tribes that eased further off their longstanding opposition in a statement last week. Sports betting has developed an air of inevitability, even for the strongest opponents. Others at the Capitol on both sides of the aisle expressed openness to legalizing sports betting. Minnesota state Rep. Pat Garofalo said that the 'biggest issue is who gets to offer mobile gambling on devices. Is it just the tribes, or do the teams and the tracks get to participate? The tribe wants exclusivity. That's the difficult issue to resolve.'"
This is a serious gap that Minnesota needs to close. Other states have repeatedly failed in their attempts to legalize sports because they haven't been able to establish alignment between tribal and retail sportsbooks. California wound up including two separate sports betting bills on their November ballot because of a similar disagreement—and both failed.
Can Minnesota Tribes Find Common Ground with Retail Sportsbooks?
As many may point out, Minnesota legal sports betting doesn't need to achieve a happy medium. Some states have granted tribes exclusivity. Wisconsin, for example, only allows on-site betting at tribal casinos. Minnesota could go forward with a similar model and work on the legalization of online sports betting over the next few years.
But going that route doesn't seem to interest lawmakers. Many of Minnesota's legal sports betting supporters have cited the popularity of online wagering as the impetus for their advocacy. More than 75 percent of all legal bets in the United States were placed online last year.
Officials throughout the House of Representatives and Senate have also harped on the revenue Minnesota is already losing to betting sites. People in the state are still placing wagers even though it's not technically legal because they have access. At this very moment, there are plenty of sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks that will allow Minnesotans to sign up for and service an account. Legalizing only on-site sports betting won't prevent them from continuing to explore similar online-gambling workarounds.
Assuming officials continue to insist on some form of online legal sports betting in Minnesota, the chances of a successful gambling proposal in 2023 will dwindle. Though the bulk of Minnesota's professional sports franchises and their prospective retail sportsbook partners have expressed a willingness to work with the tribes, that sentiment isn't presently being reciprocated by the tribes themselves. They view retail and out-of-state sportsbooks as an existential threat to their business model.
On the bright side, a smattering of solutions has been brought to the table. Some have pushed Minnesota to assess higher tax rates on online sportsbooks and funnel that additional money to tribal operations. Others have proposed mandatory partnerships between retail sportsbooks and tribal operations. A few have called for a limited number of retail sports betting licenses to be handed out, so tribal sportsbooks aren't up against an oversaturated market. Whether these ideas can bring sports betting past the goal line remains to be seen. But the current tenor of negotiations suggests they can't—and Minnesota will finish 2023 without having legalized sports betting.
Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide which one to use for all of your sports betting needs in 2023: