Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Puts Onus On Tribes To Get Sports Betting Done

Written By Matthew Kredell on May 18, 2022
Sports betting Legalization Up To Tribes, Minnesota Senate.

It seems there’s no real obstacle to Minnesota sports betting passage other than Minnesota tribes allowing horse racetracks to participate.

Speaking to media at the capitol Tuesday, Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller told reporters that lawmakers would support the bill if the horse racing industry were on board.

“Hey look, I’ve long been a supporter of sports betting. There’s no one at the capitol that would like to see it get done more than me. We need the stakeholders to get together. If the tribes and the tracks can come together and sort of work towards an agreement, I’m confident that we can get bipartisan support for the sports betting bill. But until that happens, it’s going to be challenging to get enough votes to get it passed.”

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on HF 778, which will move the sports wagering bill to the Senate floor and put it in position for a vote.

So the good news is there’s an opening for the Minnesota Senate to pass sports wagering. The bad news is it depends on the tribes giving a little to their other long-time Minnesota gambling participants.

Time is running short for the legislature to pass Minnesota sports betting legislation. Minnesota’s legislative session ends Monday.

Minnesota sports betting attempt made on Senate floor

Miller’s comments echo those made last week by Sen. Karla Bigham to PlayUSA.

Bigham said two factions of senators opposed sports betting legislation, those who support the horse racing industry and those religiously or morally opposed to gambling expansion.

But she contended the bill would “100% pass” if the state’s two gaming stakeholders reached an agreement.

Last Thursday, the Minnesota House passed HF 778, which gives exclusivity on retail and statewide online sports betting to Minnesota Indian tribes.

The day before, Bigham attempted to amend a tax bill to include sports betting on the Senate floor. But the move was more of a statement that she knew wouldn’t be accepted by Senate Republicans.

Racetrack participation wouldn’t much affect Minnesota tribes

Minnesota has 13 Indian tribes. Under the House bill, each tribe could partner with one online sports betting platform. The tribes could also offer in-person sports betting at their casinos under compacts with the state.

Only two racetracks operate in Minnesota — Canterbury Park in Shakopee and Running Aces Casino & Racetrack in Columbus.

Allowing two more sports betting apps to bring the total from 13 to 15 wouldn’t make that big of a difference to the tribes. It’s just a matter of how much the presumption of exclusivity means to them.

Sen. Roger Chamberlain included the racetracks along with the tribes in SF 574. In a press conference back in February, he explained why he thought tribes should allow racetrack participation:

“We’re saying we’ve got something here that will protect your interests, give you full rights, the consumers get a lot, the states get a little bit, and the two tracks get something as well. So it’s a better package, protects their interests, there’s money and revenue for them, and for others.”

In the final week of the session, Chamberlain’s press assistant tells PlayUSA that he is focused on the education budget rather than sports betting.

At a House committee hearing earlier this year, Douglas Franzen of Running Aces asserted that excluding racetracks would harm them significantly. Racetracks also serve as card clubs with table games such as poker and blackjack. Franzen claimed that table game revenue has dropped in states with legal sports betting.

“If competition is good, which I believe it is, it makes a ton of sense to include the two tracks on equal terms with the tribes,” Franzen said.

“Our position is not anti-sports betting, it is not anti-tribes. … But this exclusion could be a downfall.”

Photo by Paul W Thompson / Shutterstock.com
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew has covered efforts to legalize online gambling since 2007, interviewing more than 200 state lawmakers across the nation and four US Congressmen. A USC journalism alum, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News and has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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