A bipartisan group of senators held a press conference Wednesday to announce their support of legalizing sports betting in Minnesota this year.
Sen. Roger Chamberlain led the press conference with an optimistic statement:
“This is a winning ticket. It is time for Minnesota to do this, and we will cash in on this. That is the bottom line. We can get it done. There is momentum, we are excited about it and I believe this will be the year to do it.”
An oversized mock $50 sports betting ticket stood in front of the podium Chamberlain used. It read: “Legalize Sports Betting: In-Person and Mobile 2022 for Minnesota” with listed odds of -105.
But one glaring omission from the press conference makes that a bad bet at those odds. No one from Minnesota’s Indian gaming tribes spoke in favor of Chamberlain’s legislation.
Minnesota senator to amend sports betting bill
Chamberlain already filed sports betting legislation last year with Senate File 574. The bill carried over into this year, the second in a two-year session.
Chamberlain indicated that he was rewriting the bill and would come out with a new language in the next week.
He said the new language would contain:
- Brick-and-mortar sports betting for Minnesota’s 19 tribal casinos and two horse racetracks
- Mobile sports wagering with a minimum of two mobile skins for each of Minnesota’s 11 tribes
- Tribes would issue sub-licenses to online sports betting partners, including racetracks, who would pay taxes and fees
- License fees and tax rates for mobile sports betting are still to be determined but tribes would not pay these fees or taxes
- A percentage of sports betting revenue goes towards horse racing purses
- If signed into law this year, sports betting could launch in the fall of 2023
Chamberlain said sports betting would likely require the state to enter new compacts with the tribes. He dismissed the suggestion that sports betting might need voter approval.
His previous language created the Minnesota Sports Wagering Commission to regulate commercial sports betting. It also had a tax rate of 6.75% and made 18 years old the minimum age for betting.
Bipartisan senate co-sponsors stand behind the bill
Sen. Karla Bigham of the Democrat-Farmer-Labor party joined Republican Sens. Julia Coleman, Karin Housley, and Mark Koran in attending the press conference to support the effort to bring sports betting to the state.
Housley said that earlier in the day, she was speaking to a group of men in their 70s and 80s, and she got the biggest cheer when she said she was leaving to do a press conference about legalizing Minnesota sports betting.
“It is really a popular issue not just among the younger generation,” Housley said. “… It’s really time that we get this done here in Minnesota. It’s a win-win-win for the tribes, the tracks and the consumers.”
Bigham brought up how most legal money bet by Minnesotans on the Super Bowl occurred in Iowa.
“We just came off a very exciting weekend,” Bigham said. “Millions of dollars were sports wagered throughout this state, but it was done having to go to Iowa and that needs to stop.”
Chamberlain said he thinks there is general support for legalizing sports betting in the Republican caucus.
Tribal support necessary for Minnesota sports betting
The main reason Minnesota hasn’t passed sports betting the past few years is opposition from the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association.
Chamberlain said he has not engaged tribes in discussions on the new language but will negotiate with them in the future.
“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,” Chamberlain said. “So it’s a better package, protects their interests, there’s money and revenue for them, and for others.”
Chamberlain also went off on a dangerous tangent of passing this without tribal support.
“In the reality of things, we do not need the tribes to do this,” Chamberlain said. “… I don’t want to get political about it, but we never needed their support to pass legislation. It’s just a lobbying group that has a particular amount of leverage and power.”
However, it’s believed Gov. Tim Walz wouldn’t sign a bill that doesn’t have tribal approval.
Bigham said that tribal support is key for the Democratic caucus.
“Making sure their voice is heard and respected is key for support,” Bigham said. “… It’s important that this obviously has to be bipartisan and the tribes have to be involved, and it’s important that their voice is honored and heard. And that is the intent, I believe, of how we are going to move forward.”
Outlook for Minnesota sports betting legalization
Rep. Zack Stephenson is crafting the sports betting legislation in the House this year. He told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he’d had conversations with all 11 Minnesota tribes.
Chamberlain said he might be willing to support Stephenson’s language, which figures to be tribal-friendly.
“It depends on what is in their proposal,” Chamberlain said. “It must be brick and mortar and mobile in some sort of package where most importantly the customer wins.”
Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller also supports sports betting passage.
Canada and all four states surrounding Minnesota have authorized some form of legal sports betting. This seems to have sparked some urgency in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Minnesota’s legislative session runs through May 23.
Rep. Pat Garofalo told PlayUSA that he thinks Minnesota will legalize sports betting this year. Garofalo, who often goes down to Iowa to place wagers during the NFL season, introduced sports betting legislation in previous years.
“It’s not guaranteed,” Garofalo said. “But I would say we’re up by two scores, it’s the end of the third quarter and we have the ball. There’s a lot of positivity.”