Has there been a bigger tease over the past few years than the idea of legalizing sports betting for Minnesota? We’re not sure. But probably not. Because for three years running, legal sports betting in Minnesota has been considered almost inevitable—something that is believed to seriously intrigue the state and the primary gaming stakeholders within it.
Yet, at every turn, Minnesota has failed to legalize sports betting. That includes their latest round of negotiations. Another Minnesota sports betting initiative failed to pass in May 2022.
Though the state cannot realistically implement legal sport betting before 2024 at this point—since it needs to make a major electoral ballot and be approved by voters—negotiations on the subject have continued. There even appeared to be a breakthrough not too long ago.
Entering the fall of 2022, however, legal sports betting in Minnesota remains at an Impasse. And in the interest of mapping out the future, it’s important to understand why.
Just How Close Did Legal Sports Betting in Minnesota Get?
To answer this question in three words: pretty damn close.
Initially, the state of Minnesota maintained an opposition to legal sports betting. When they eventually came around, though, concern was expressed by the 11 native tribes that operate the state’s 19 casinos.
By the start of 2022, however, there appeared to be a major breakthrough. The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association became more open to brokering an agreement entering the 2022 legislature session. Once there, they negotiated a bill with the House of Representatives that gave the 11 tribes exclusivity over the state’s sports betting rights.
That measure was widely expected to pass through the Senate upon arrival. But then it fell apart.
The Senate tried adding a provision that also allowed legal sports betting in Minnesota to take place at two horse racing tracks. That ended up being a deal-breaker for the tribes, who believe even a minor expansion such as this one sets the precedent for a slippery slope moving forward. And as a result, the 2022 Minnesota legislature went from having a legal sports betting agreement in place to once again adjourning without one.
Tribes Remain Particular About the Terms of Legal Sports Betting in Minnesota
In the months since the latest Minnesota sports betting initiative failed, the tribes have remained steadfast in their refusal to sign a deal that awards gaming licenses to horse racing tracks or any other non-tribal entities. They collectively argue that this would open the floodgates for a free sports betting market that includes commercial online retailers, which in turn would adversely impact the local economy by driving residents to take their existing casino business to online sports books that also offered virtual gaming.
This concern is not unfounded. Multiple polls have now shown that more than three-quarters of the sports bets being placed in the United States take place online. If the state of Minnesota ever deviates away from the exclusivity they granted the tribes, it would not only limit the latter’s sports betting business but inevitably repress the foot traffic imperative to their casino business—table games, slots, on-site restaurants, etc.
Many have been frustrated by the tribe viewing the inclusion of two horse racing tracks as a sign of an eventual free sports betting market. But in fairness to them, the state could just remove the two tracks from the equation and ensure a deal gets done. Minnesota could also grant the tribes a longer gaming compact that ensures sports betting laws won’t allow online bookies to operate within the state for a certain period of time.
Truth be told, that feels like the compromise we’re destined to see: The tribes will allow horse racing tracks to obtain sports betting licenses if the state extends their exclusivity clause an extra half-decade or.
Is the state willing to go that far? Or will they want to keep their options open with regards to online sports betting, because of all the potential revenue it can create? Nobody knows the answer at this point. And it’s unlikely we will get one before the next round of legislature sessions, which puts legal sports betting in Minnesota at least one year away.
How Minnesotans Can Still Bet On Sports
All of the uncertainty surrounding the future of legal sports betting in Minnesota can incite a sense of hopelessness. Will the state ever approve online gambling? And if so when? By 2024, with a 2025 rollout? Or will it be even longer than that? It’s all so much to consider.
Sugarcoating this impasse between state legislators and the 11 native tribes won’t do anyone any favors, either. The state of sports betting negotiations in Minnesota is, in fact, a problem. We might as well admit it.
Luckily, people residing in the Land of 10,000 Lakes are not without loopholes if they wish to wager on sports. Some states that have already legalized sports betting are only a short drive away. More conveniently still, our reviews of the top online sportsbooks are loaded with reputable sites that have been in business for decades and are willing to let Minnesotans sign up for accounts and begin placing bets.
One day, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, it won’t be as difficult to bet on sports in Minnesota. For now, though, these workarounds are your best—and, quite frankly, only—viable options.
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:
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