Lawmaker Optimistic About Legalization Of Minnesota Sports Betting

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Minnesota lawmakers return to work next week, and at least one member is optimistic sports betting will be legalized in the state this year. 

“If I was a betting man …. I would say there is a better chance than not we can get this to happen in the upcoming legislative session,” state Rep. Pat Garofalo told Minnesota Public Radio earlier this week.

The Minnesota state legislature convenes on Monday, Jan. 31. It typically stays in session for six months. 

Where Minnesota Sports Betting Could Take Place

Garofalo, a Republican, said there are several issues that need to be addressed as sports betting comes before lawmakers. 

He should know. He, and others, tried unsuccessfully to bring sports betting legislation to the floor last year. His legislation died before it even got off the ground.

Among the questions that need to be answered are who would be able to offer sports betting and where the facilities would be located.

Minnesota has a large tribal community. There are 18 casinos operated in the state now, all on tribal lands. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, a Democrat, has said he is open to signing sports betting legislation, but any legislation needs to have the support of the tribes.

Garofalo said he hopes to “have everyone at the table” for the conversation and wants as many “stakeholders” as possible involved in the discussion.

Another consideration, he acknowledged, is whether or not to allow sportsbook to offer mobile sports betting. 

“It’s going to be a provocative issue,” he said.  

But he was optimistic because expanding sports betting has been traditionally a bipartisan issue with both Democrats and Republicans supporting it.  That said, he noted there are also examples of members of both parties joining together in opposition to block sports betting. 

Why Sports Betting Is Needed in Minnesota

Garofalo acknowledged sports betting is already happening in Minnesota, it’s just being done through illegal bookmakers, websites, and offshore accounts. 

Using similar arguments to what lawmakers said in Ohio last year, instead of having the money go elsewhere, it should stay in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Garofalo called it a consumer protection issue.

He also argued that by legalizing sports betting, law enforcement resources spent on tracking down illegal gambling activities could be better served going elsewhere.

Additionally, neighboring states have legalized sports betting, meaning state dollars are crossing state lines. Iowa has legalized sports betting, while Wisconsin opened the door to tribal sports betting last year.  South Dakota allows sports betting in the town of Deadwood, and there is talk of a possible ballot initiative come November to approve sports betting as well.

About the Author

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is an award-winning journalist who co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Government." She has spent more than 20 years covering government, both at the state and federal level. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence College Friars she feels cursed. Luckily she is a hockey mom too so her spirits aren't totally shot.

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