Minnesota Sports Betting Legislative Preview 2023

Written By Matthew Kredell on January 11, 2023
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Minnesota was one of the states closest to passing sports betting legislation last year only to fall short. But that doesn’t mean the momentum will carry over into 2023.

A tentative deal reached between some tribes and tracks at the end of the last session is reportedly no longer on the table. Additionally, there was a large amount of turnover of lawmakers and a shift in Senate control figures to focus priorities elsewhere early in the session.

Minnesota sports betting has a shot in 2023. But it’s starting from scratch and won’t progress until later in the session.

Rep. Pat Garofalo explained to PlayUSA:

“We can get to legalizing sports betting but a lot of other things have to happen first. We have to balance the budget first as there’s a big balance surplus. Then there’s a lot more momentum for legalizing marijuana right now.”

What happened with Minnesota sports betting in 2022

Sports betting efforts took a big step forward in Minnesota last year. The big breakhrough came when the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association came out in favor of legalizing sports betting for the first time.

Rep. Zach Stephenson worked with the tribes to introduce a bill giving them exclusivity over retail and online sports betting. House File 778 took a long and winding road through eight House committees.

The Minnesota House eventually passed the bill 70-57 even as members said they knew the bill would die in the Senate.

The legislation provided each of Minnesota’s 11 tribes an online sports betting presence. Online sports betting would have been taxed at 10%. The state would not have taxed sports betting that took place on tribal land.

Senate leadership was not willing to go along with a tribal “monopoly” on sports betting, however. The Senate bill authored by Sen. Roger Chamberlain also included Minnesota’s two horse racetracks — Canterbury Park in Shakopee and Running Aces Casino, Hotel & Racetrack in Columbus.

Last-minute compromise almost led to 2022 passage

In the final days of the legislative session, lawmakers told tribes and tracks to work out a compromise. Several Minnesota lawmakers tell PlayUSA that they did.

The deal would have given Minnesota tribes exclusivity over sports betting. In return, tracks and tribes would get to expand table game offerings to include craps and roulette.

However, not all tribes were on board.

“I think there was an agreement among some of the tribes but not all of them,” Garofalo said. “I think negotiations are still ongoing.”

Senate leadership wasn’t willing to take up the changes on the final day of the session.

“I think there is momentum because we had that deal and it was so close, we just couldn’t get it across the finish line,” Sen. Karin Housley told PlayUSA. “We ran out of time.”

What could happen in the 2023 legislative session

Minnesota’s legislative session started last week with a new look. One-third of the members in both chambers are new.

In the November elections, the Senate flipped to the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, which now controls both chambers and the governor’s office. With total control of the Minnesota government, the party has the opportunity to push its agenda.

Once the legislature addresses those agenda items, sports betting could take focus in April and May. The Minnesota legislative session ends May 22.

Both Housley and Garofalo are in the minority party.

Sen. Roger Chamberlain, who sponsored sports betting legislation in each of the past two years, is one of those Senate Republicans who lost his re-election bid in November. Housley said that Sen. Matt Kline is expected to lead sports betting legalization efforts in the Senate. Kline, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, co-sponsored Chamberlain’s bill last year.

But sports betting is expected to once again start in the House with Stephenson introducing a bill supported by the tribes. The bill once again will have to go through the long committee process in both the House and Senate.

“They only have a one-seat majority, so they’re going to need Republicans to vote for this,” Housley said. “And we have enough to give them. New members have brought in a bunch more priorities and it’s a budget year, so we’re hoping sports betting can be a priority.”

Housley believes the House and Senate will need to work out differences in their bills in a conference committee.

Minnesota sports betting’s chances in 2023

Hopes for legalizing sports betting in Minnesota this year really come down to if the tribes and tracks can finalize a compromise.

“There’s not an agreement between tracks and tribes right now,” Garofalo said. “That will be important in whether we achieve resolution.”

The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association is still pushing for legal sports betting run by the tribes.

Another factor is if Canterbury Park will push for sports betting inclusion. In 2012, Canterbury Park signed a 10-year agreement with Mystic Lake Indian Casino not to push for gambling expansion. That agreement has now expired.

Canterbury Park could now join the lobbying for sports betting or perhaps renew its agreement with Mystic Lake.

While last year’s agreement around expanding table games in return for sports betting exclusivity apparently won’t be in introductory legislation, it could still make it into the final product. If it does, Garofalo thinks legislators would approve.

“If that was the agreement, I think it would pass,” Garofalo said. “It’s unlikely to pass unless all stakeholders sign off on it. I don’t see a situation where a bill opposed by the tracks becomes law.”

Photo by PlayUSA
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew's reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. After graduating from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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