Minnesota Sports Betting Bill’s Got 99 Committees Left But Judiciary Ain’t One

Written By Matthew Kredell on March 25, 2022
Resistance Towards Minnesota Sports Betting But Clears Another Committee

Legislation continues to face significant resistance as it slowly advances through House committees for Minnesota sports betting.

House Bill 778 made its latest stop Thursday in the Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee.

In the committee, bill sponsor Rep. Zack Stephenson made a promised amendment to change the minimum age requirement to wager on sports from 18 to 21.

Then the bill advanced by a contested vote of 9-6. Next week, it will head to the House Taxes Committee.

Last week, the legislation only cleared the State Government Finance and Elections Committee by a 7-5 vote.

It’s unclear how many more stops the bill has on its long path to the House floor. Stephenson said early on that it could be six committee stops or more. So far, it’s been through three committees.

In most states, bills only go through one, maybe two committees.

Usual suspects make appearances for Minnesota sports betting

Each committee stop brings many of the same speakers repeating their previous testimony.

Andy Platto of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association supports the general framework of the bill, which gives tribes exclusivity over statewide mobile sports betting. The association, which represents 10 of the 11 Minnesota tribes, still won’t come out and offer official support of the bill until comfortable with the final details.

Sam Krueger of Electronic Gaming Group opposes the bill because it ignores charitable gambling, a $3 billion industry in Minnesota.

“Charitable gambling is done in thousands of locations across the state, and in all of your districts,” Krueger said. “It’s already done in Wi-Fi-connected mobile devices. Charities are also experts in gaming and deserve a seat at the table.”

Pat Gills from the Sports Betting Alliance, made up of sportsbook operators, is just glad that Minnesota may finally legalize sportsbook apps.

This time, Les Bernal from Stop Predatory Gambling added his opinion that legalizing sports wagering would “unleash an epidemic of child gambling in Minnesota.”

“Already in Minnesota, the people are losing,” Bernal said. “If you combine the losses in the lottery and the electronic pool-tabs, the people in Minnesota are losing $740 million of personal wealth every year, most of which is coming from low-income communities who are disproportionately black and brown folks.”

A man from Neighborhood Youth Academy echoed those sentiments with concerns on how the bill will affect young people and communities of color.

The bill appropriates $150,000 in the fiscal year 2023 to conduct a study on young adult gamblers’ gambling motivations and beliefs.

Committee member gets testy over MN sports betting bill

When a bill goes through a million committees, each committee only addresses a small part of the legislation.

In the Judiciary committee, data and civil penalties fall under its purview.

The bill appoints the Commissioner of Public Safety for the Division of Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement to regulate sports betting.

Rep. Peggy Scott apparently asked Stephenson late in the day Wednesday to produce the commissioner at the 8:30 am hearing. Stephenson responded that she didn’t provide enough notice to make that request. And that she could have made it sooner since the bill had been assigned to the committee for a week.

“Rep. Stephenson, this is your bill and the reason this bill is in our committee is because of civil penalties,” Scott replied.

“You would have maybe thought because those are going to be written by the commissioner of public safety, that you might have had the forethought to have him come to our committee.”

Scott thought the bill left too much to the commissioner’s discretion rather than specified by the legislature.

“Usually when a bill comes to this committee, there’s no speculation of what the civil penalties are going to be on any given issue. They’re laid out in the bill. So I hope that this bill will have to come back to our committee because I highly encourage you to have some of these penalties laid out in the statute so that we can make a more informed decision if somebody doesn’t live according to the rules and laws set forth in what you’re trying to do here.”

Judiciary members have reservations but pass bill

Rep. Matt Grossell expressed concerns with the bill leading to increased gambling addictions.

“Just the thought of legalizing something so we have more problems when we’ve already got problems with it just doesn’t make any sense,” Grossell said.

Stephenson’s counter:

“To paraphrase a popular song, we’ve got plenty of problems but this bill ain’t one. I’d ask members to support it. It’s a good bill.”

Stephenson must have known his audience. There were enough Jay-Z fans in Judiciary for that argument to get the bill through another committee, barely.

Photo by Steve Karnowski / Associated Press
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Written by
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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