Proposed Minnesota Sports Betting Law Stalled in Committee

Proposed Minnesota Sports Betting Law Stalled in Committee

Sports bettors will have to wait a little bit longer for Minnesota legal sports betting to finally become a reality in the North Star State. A bill that would introduce legal, regulated sports betting has made slow but steady progress through an array of committees at the Minnesota Statehouse but is now stalled in the Ways and Means Committee.

The delay puts the bill at risk of dying when the Minnesota Legislature adjourns later this spring. That would add to frustration among legislators from both sides of the House, who have sought to change the law since the Supreme Court cleared the way for legal sports betting in the USA four years ago. Indeed, with the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Zack Stephenson, estimating that Minnesota residents are already wagering over $2 billion per year at offshore sportsbooks, many lawmakers are eager to get the sports betting bill passed and start collecting taxes generated by legal sportsbooks.

Impact on Horse Racing; Charitable Gaming Raises Concerns

At issue is the impact that legal sportsbooks would have on horse racing across the state, as well as how sportsbooks would be licensed. In its current form, the bill allows for two master licensing agreements with native tribes, with one set to go to Ojibways in the north, and the other to Dakota tribes in the south.

While that plan has the full support of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, concerns have been expressed about giving the state’s native tribes with a near-monopoly on brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, as well as on mobile sports betting apps.

A proposal from the Minnesota Senate recommends including the state’s two horse racetracks among the candidates for sportsbook and mobile app licenses. In addition, representatives from Minnesota’s thriving $3 billion per year charitable gaming industry want to have a seat at the table when sports betting is finally legalized in the state.

Sports Betting Already a Reality in North Star State

Currently enjoying steady growth in population, Minnesota has also emerged as a mecca of professional sports. All four major sports leagues have teams in the state, including the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, MLB’s Minnesota Twins, the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, and the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. Major League Soccer also recently made its debut in the state; the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers are perennial contenders in NCAA football, basketball, and hockey.

In the absence of local, legal sportsbooks, Minnesota sports bettors have turned to mobile apps from offshore sportsbooks to get in on the auction, a reality recognized by lawmakers who support the current bid to make legal, regulated sports betting a reality.

Legal Sports Betting in Neighboring States Fueling Sense of Urgency

However, both lawmakers and potential legal sportsbook licensees in the North Star State also see an increase in urgency to get this bill passed simply to keep pace with neighboring states.

Wisconsin has fast-tracked its efforts to make legalized sports betting a reality, clearing the way for sportsbooks to open at three locations on native lands in recent months. Iowa is also well ahead of Minnesota in its efforts, with both brick-and-mortar sportsbooks operated by BetFred and Fanduel now open for business just across the state line from Minnesota. And just across the Canadian border, legal sports betting is now a reality in the Province of Ontario, although it currently remains limited to authorized mobile apps.

While the current issues could lead to further delays along the road to legal sports betting, many prior issues have been resolved. The bill in its current form calls for a 10% tax on all sportsbook profits, with a significant portion of that revenue earmarked for programs related to problem gambling. The issue also has bipartisan backing, which raises hopes that Minnesota sports betting fans will soon be able to legally place bets on their favorite teams before the end of 2022.

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