For Minnesota sports betting legislation to pass in 2023, horse racetracks probably have to be included in some way. The first House committee hearing on the issue showed promising signs that could be in the works.
Rep. Zach Stephenson’s HF 2000, introduced last week, gives sports betting exclusivity to Minnesota Indian tribes. Minnesota professional sports teams joined with tribes to support the bill.
Monday in the House Commerce, Finance and Policy Committee chaired by Stephenson, Minnesota’s two horse racetracks opposed the bill. They asked to be included.
But Rep. Brad Tabke told colleagues that he was talking with tracks to find a solution.
“We are working together on a path forward for tracks and making sure that everybody is included and we’re making good progress,” Tabke said.
Racetracks plead for Minnesota sports betting inclusion
Canterbury Park chairman and CEO Randy Sampson and Running Aces CFO Tracy Wilson testified at the hearing.
“We feel strongly that any effort to add sports betting to the gaming options in Minnesota needs to include input from the tracks as well as the tribal governments and the sports teams,” Sampson said. “Adding new gaming options at Canterbury has never proved to be a threat to the tribal gaming and these options just provide a different type of economic development.”
Wilson said that horse racetracks already take sports bets on horse racing and offer mobile wagering through advanced deposit wagering.
“If our racetrack is excluded from sports betting expansion, this will endanger the future of our over $500 million racing industry in Minnesota,” Wilson said. “We are asking today for parity and basic fairness.”
She also cited a KSTP/SurveyUSA poll from last year indicating that 57% of Minnesotans support sports betting through tribal casinos and racetracks. But only 7% of respondents support limiting sports betting to tribes.
Sampson provided the first indication that House lawmakers are working with racetracks on a possible solution.
“We can’t support this bill in its current form as it does not take into account the needs of the horse industry. However, I do appreciate that Rep. Tabke has reached out to Canterbury Park and we’ve begun some discussions regarding options for providing resources to support the horse industry.”
Stephenson seems willing to appease racetracks
Running Aces made similar asks in the House last year. Stephenson pushed forward with tribal exclusivity anyway and the bill passed the House.
But this year Canterbury Park, Minnesota’s oldest racetrack, is also taking part in the discussions. Last year, Canterbury Park had to remain quiet on gambling expansions in the final year of a marketing agreement with the Skakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.
Whether it’s Canterbury’s involvement or wanting to break through resistance in the Senate, Stephenson seems more willing to include racetracks. However, he pushed back at Rep. Tim O’Driscoll’s suggestion of including charitable gaming and electronic pull-tabs in the legislation.
“There already is a lot in this bill but I’m always open to more and that’s why I’m encouraged by Rep. Tabke’s work with the tracks,” Stephenson said. “I do think charitable gambling is a different thing all together, and I don’t think it belongs in this bill.”
Including the racetracks doesn’t necessarily mean allowing them to participate in sports betting. Last year, Running Aces worked out a last-minute deal with eight of the 11 Minnesota tribes. Tribes maintained exclusivity over sports betting and tracks got additional table games of craps and roulette (which tribes would also get).
Senate wants tracks in Minnesota sports betting
Senate Republicans refused to pass any sports betting legislation last year that didn’t give sports betting licenses to tracks.
Rep. Jeremy Miller filed SF 2425 Thursday. That bill gives retail sports betting licenses to tracks and Minnesota professional sports teams while encouraging tribes to partner with the other entities on mobile sports betting.
Last year, Miller was the Republican Senate Majority Leader. This year, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has control of the House and Senate. Sen. Matt Klein, a DMF member, filed companion legislation to Stephenson’s bill.
Miller told PlayUSA that, despite the change in power, the Democrats will need Republican votes to pass Minnesota sports betting. He doesn’t think that will happen without including the racetracks.
The bill has a long journey ahead providing plenty of opportunities for change. Last year, Minnesota sports betting legislation went through eight House committees.
HF 2000 passed through the House Commerce, Finance and Policy Committee by a contested 10-6 vote. It moves on to the Judiciary, Finance Civil Law Committee.
Noting that every state that borders Minnesota has legal sports betting, Stephenson said:
“Minnesotans deserve the same opportunity that all of our neighbors have to bet in a legal, safe marketplace with consumer protections. As my colleague Rep. [Pat] Garofalo likes to say, no Minnesotan should have to go to Iowa to have fun.”