Minnesota Sports Betting

Sports betting is not legal in Minnesota. That said, lawmakers in the state have been exploring the possibility since the US Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that states other than Nevada could start accepting wagers on sports.

Minnesota is home to 11 different federally recognized Native American tribes who presently operate around 20 different casinos in the state. There are a number of smaller gambling establishments run by the tribes as well. The tribes’ centrality to gambling in Minnesota necessitates their involvement in any future decisions regarding sports betting in the state, adding an important component to those negotiations.

Legislators have proposed bills that would legalize sports betting, including both retail and online sports wagering, while limiting it to tribal casinos. However, the tribes have thus far resisted while maintaining that introducing sports betting could have a negative impact on gambling in the state.

This page reviews how the sports betting discussion has gone thus far in Minnesota and the prospects for sports betting going forward.

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Is sports betting legal in Minnesota?

No, it is not, but discussions regarding sports betting arose as far back as the 1990s. However, at that time, Minnesota’s attorney general ended those debates by insisting the state would not likely win a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the federal prohibition. Much later, in 2018, New Jersey would win such a lawsuit, which meant Minnesota could at least begin to entertain the idea of legalizing sports betting once more.

In 2018, Minnesota Rep. Pat Garofalo first began circulating a draft sports betting bill, getting feedback from both lawmakers and the tribes. In the state’s other chamber, Sen. Roger Chamberlain introduced a sports betting bill, though it failed to gain any traction.

The following February, Garofalo then formally introduced his Safe and Regulated Sports Gambling Act of 2019. The bill limited sports betting to brick-and-mortar casinos, allowing mobile wagering but only on site. Interestingly, the bill proposed the state take a 0.5% tax on the handle, rather than a tax on revenue (as every other state does).

Sen. Chamberlain likewise refiled his Sports Wagering Regulation and Taxation bill in the Senate. His bill differed from Garofalo’s in a few ways, including opening up mobile wagering to the entire state, allowing sports betting at the state’s race tracks, and taxing revenue (not handle) by 6.75% (a relatively low amount, compared to other states).

Alas, the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association didn’t care for either bill, and their opposition stymied the bills’ progress.

In 2020, Chamberlain filed a new version of his bill with a few changes, including requiring in-person registration at the casinos for mobile accounts. But the tribes opposed the legislation again, and the bills died without advancing up the legislative ladder.

MN sports betting look-ahead: Lawmakers will need to satisfy the tribes

Indications are lawmakers are still trying (and will keep trying) to introduce more sports betting bills going forward. In January 2021, Sen. Karla Bigham, along with Garofalo, introduced a bill but it has not made any progress since then.

Of course, there still remains a significant impasse between what lawmakers are proposing and what the tribes will allow.

The tribes steadfastly refuse to go along with any sports betting outside of their properties, which would include any mobile wagering or sportsbooks at racetracks or other non-tribal establishments. The nature of the current tribal-state compacts in Minnesota enables the tribes to continue with such objections. Furthermore, the compacts are effective in perpetuity, meaning they cannot be renegotiated unless both sides agree to reopen them.

The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association has made its position clear in the past:

“Minnesota tribes remain concerned that a legal sports betting market could have negative consequences to the state’s delicate gaming industry.”

The state and the tribes will obviously have to reach some kind of compromise if sports betting is ever to come to MN.

Will online sports betting come to Minnesota?

All things considered, online sports betting seems even less likely for Minnesota than retail sports betting. That’s because the state’s 11 tribes strongly oppose allowing any sort of sports wagering to occur away from their casinos.

Proposed bills have tried to include online sports betting. Some have proposed allowing online wagering and restricting it by geolocation to the casino properties. But the tribes have not supported any bills thus far. That said, legislators continue to include online sports betting in their proposed bills. It could come to pass that if the tribes and state ever do reopen negotiations to consider sports betting, an online component could be part of the discussion.

If it ever does happen, some of the biggest names in the online sportsbook world will vie for a spot in Minnesota. Here are five of the top brands likely to make an appearance, most of which already have set up camp in neighboring legal states:

  1. DraftKings
  2. BetMGM
  3. FanDuel
  4. Fox Bet
  5. PointsBet

Who regulates Minnesota sports betting?

If Minnesota were to legalize sports betting, there are different regulatory bodies that could conceivably oversee it. Legislators could also appoint a new commission to do so. Recently proposed bills suggest the appointing of a new Minnesota Sports Wagering Commission for that purpose.

What is the legal age for sports betting in Minnesota?

The minimum age to gamble in Minnesota’s tribal casinos is 18 years old. Sports betting legislation that has been proposed similarly suggest 18 as a minimum age for sports betting.

What sports can I bet on in Minnesota?

Currently, there are no legal sports betting options in Minnesota. However, the state permits parimutuel wagering on horse races. Betting on daily fantasy sports is allowed as well, even if it is not explicitly authorized by Minnesota law.

Sports betting bills that have been proposed have not dealt too specifically with the types of sporting events on which they would allow wagering. The most recent Senate bill does not prohibit wagering on college sports (as some states do). It does, however, specifically rule out betting on political elections.

That means if Minnesota were to legalize sports betting, expect the following popular sports to be available to bet upon:

  • Auto racing
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Boxing
  • Football
  • Golf
  • Hockey
  • Mixed martial arts (MMA)
  • Motorsports
  • Olympics
  • Soccer
  • Tennis

Betting on pro sports teams in Minnesota

Minnesota is home to a number of popular professional sports franchises, including:

All six of these teams are located in the Twin Cities. Most play their home games in Minneapolis, aside from the Minnesota Wild and Minnesota United FC who play in St. Paul.

There are five NCAA Division I college teams as well in the state, the most famous of which is the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Betting on horse races in Minnesota

Betting on horse races has been legal in Minnesota since the early 1980s. Canterbury Park in Shakopee is the state’s largest and most famous race track, hosting several thoroughbred races each year. Meanwhile, Running Aces Casino & Racetrack in Columbus features harness racing. As described above, both facilities also have card rooms where visitors can play poker as well as table card games like blackjack.

Off-track betting is not legal in Minnesota. However, advance deposit wagering is and both Canterbury Park and Running Aces simulcast races in their racebooks where patrons can wager on them year-round. Interestingly, Minnesota law prohibits wagering on races run in-state from anywhere except at the race track.

Minnesotans can additionally bet on horse racing on two mobile horse racing sites, BetAmerica and TVG.

What types of sports bets can I make in Minnesota?

If sports betting comes to Minnesota, expect sportsbooks to begin offering all of the most popular types of sports wagers, including:

  • Moneyline — a bet on a side to win a contest outright, regardless of the spread.
  • Spread — a bet that takes into account the spread; e.g., a bet on the “Vikings +3.5” wins if the Vikings either win or lose by no more than 3.5 points.
  • Totals — a bet on whether or not total amount of points scored in a contest goes over or under a certain number; a.k.a. an “over/under” bet.
  • Parlays — a bet that combines multiple bets into one wager, with each “leg” of the bet needing to win in order for the parlay to win.
  • Round Robin — a type of parlay bet in which the bettor can still win a partial payout if some (not all) of the “legs” win.
  • Teasers — yet another kind of parlay in which the bettor “teases” or altars the spread or total for one of the “legs” of the bet.
  • Props — a bet on a player or team that doesn’t involve the outcome of the contest, such as on how many points a player scores.
  • Futures — a bet on an event that will not be determined until a future date; e.g., a preseason bet on which team will win the Super Bowl.
  • In-Play Betting — also called “live betting,” a bet on events in a game currently in progress.

The background of Minnesota gambling law

Like most states, Minnesota experienced a fair share of illegal gambling during its early history. In 1945, the state legalized bingo, but only for non-profit or charitable purposes. Around that time other types of illegal gambling were explicitly criminalized, including slot machines.

During the 1970s the legislature began considering bills to allow pari-mutuel wagering on horse races. Before any law was passed, other types of charitable gambling like paddlewheels, tipboards, raffles, and pull-tabs were legalized. Charitable gambling became a large industry in the state, so much so that the state had to introduce reforms to control its growth.

Finally in late 1982 pari-mutuel wagering was legalized and the next year the legislature created the Minnesota Racing Commission. The first race track opened in 1985, Canterbury Downs in Shakopee, later renamed Canterbury Park.

In 1989, the state additionally legalized off-track betting. However, a couple of years later the state Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. Then in 1994, the legislature approved an amendment to allow it, but voters did not vote in favor of the amendment. Later in 2016, Minnesota would legalize advance deposit wagering, but only for races run out-of-state.

Minnesota voters did vote to approve a state lottery, however, and bought their first lottery tickets in 1990.

Over the years Minnesota’s horse racetracks have tried without success to add Vegas-style casino games and become “racinos.” All that has been allowed, however, is for the tracks to offer card games, including both table games like blackjack and traditional poker. Canterbury Park currently offers the most table card games and has the largest non-tribal poker room in the state with 25 cash game tables plus more when hosting tournaments.

Daily fantasy sports operators like DraftKings, FanDuel, and Yahoo! do serve Minnesotans, even though the state has never explicitly legalized DFS.

Tribal gaming in Minnesota

There are a number of casinos in Minnesota. None are commercial casinos, however, as all of them are operated by the states’ 11 federally recognized tribes.

The US Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in 1988. The following year Minnesota signed its first tribal-state compacts with some of the state’s tribes to allow casino-style gambling. In fact, Minnesota was the first state in the country to sign such compacts after the IGRA was passed.

The compacts authorize the tribes to offer Class III gambling, although the state and tribes agreed they would limit themselves to video games of chance (slots), blackjack, and poker along with various Class II games like bingo and pull tabs.

Over subsequent years the state formed compacts with the tribes. By 1993 there were already 17 tribal casinos open for business. Today there are around 20 full-fledged casinos and at least that many smaller tribal gaming establishments, too. The largest casino in the state is the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake.

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Martin Harris

Martin Harris is a writer and teacher who has reported on poker, online gambling, and sports betting since the mid-2000s. Once a full-time academic (Ph.D., English), he currently teaches part-time in the American Studies program at UNC Charlotte. In 2019, his book Poker & Pop Culture was published by D&B Books.

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