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Amendment To Minnesota Sports Betting Bill Could Derail Legislation Entirely

Written By Derek Helling on March 8, 2024
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If you’re in the Twin Cities and hoping that 2024 could be the year that Minnesota finally opens the door to allowing you to legally wager on sporting events, you might not want to download those sportsbook apps just yet. A recent amendment to a bill toward that end in St. Paul shows that there is still resistance to gambling expansion in the state.

The amendment, which has been approved by a Minnesota Senate committee, would carve out in-game betting from the regulated system for sports betting in Minnesota. While that could derail the entire legislative process, it isn’t the only current obstacle.

Amendment restricts legal Minnesota sports betting opportunities

Two pieces of legislation, HF 2000 and SF 1949 are companions in their respective chambers of the Minnesota legislature. In a recent Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, the members voted to attach an amendment from Sen. Jordan Rasmusson to SF 1949.

The over-arching theme of the amendment is to strengthen responsible gambling measures in the potentially regulated system for sports wagering. It would create and fund a hotline for people to access resources regarding problem gambling and define a framework for bettors to be able to set custom limits for themselves.

At the same time, it would leave in-game betting in the arena of illegal wagering. Minnesota’s licensed sportsbooks would not be able to take bets on games once they have begun. While Pat Evans of Legal Sports Report says the MN sports betting amendment has the support of SF 1949’s primary sponsor Sen. Matt Klein, opposition to the restriction on live betting could be fierce in the broader legislature. To that point:

It’s unclear how broad the support will be for the current version of SF 1949 in the larger Minnesota Senate. That amendment also makes SF 1949 materially different from HF 2000, so members of both chambers would have to reconcile their bills if HF 2000 were to pass in the House in its current form.

Among the myriad possibilities right now is that division over this tenet could stymie the entire process of legalizing sports betting in Minnesota in 2024. Even if that doesn’t prove to be the case, though, other factors could produce the same result.

Other matters to attend to in Minnesota gambling expansion

From a broader perspective, the fate of in-game wagering is just one of several issues that legislators will have to concur on to expand legal gambling in Minnesota. Others include how to spend tax revenue from the activity and who gets a cut of the revenue the gambling produces.

Other proposals have earmarked part of the Minnesota gambling tax revenue to support youth sports and charitable gaming enterprises in Minnesota. At the same time, there have been amendments that would increase the amount of revenue devoted to funding resources for people who struggle with problem gambling.

While the legislature can literally divvy up the tax revenue however it likes, excluding certain recipients or diminishing the cut of the revenue specific causes would receive could result in legislators voting against proposals. The margins of support could be thin so losing a few votes here and there might prove fatal.

If any issue dooms sports betting legalization for 2024, that speaks to the premise of legalizing online casino games in Minnesota potentially being even more fraught right now.

Online casino legalization is a mere fantasy for Minnesotans currently

At no point over the past few years have there been any bills or publicly confirmed discussions in St. Paul about potentially legalizing online casino games for real money in Minnesota. The contentious process to simply legalize online sports betting shows why.

The reason behind the proposal to send tax revenue from sports betting in Minnesota to support charitable gaming businesses is the fear that the introduction of regulated sports betting in the state would result in less revenue for those enterprises. That fear of cannibalization could be even more significant with online casino play.

Tribal casino operators hold substantial sway over gaming matters in Minnesota and would probably resist any attempt to legalize online slots and table games outside of their control. At the same time, horse racing tracks would likely oppose any measure that would give tribal casinos exclusivity over that gaming vertical.

For that reason, Minnesota is likely to stay focused on the sports betting track for the foreseeable future. Given the issues like the potential restriction on live betting, that future is hard to foresee currently.

Photo by AP Photo/Steven Senne
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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