Representative Zack Stephenson anticipates sports betting to be part of Minnesota’s 2023 legislative session, which opened Jan, 3.
“I hope and expect that we’ll pass a sports betting bill this year,” Rep. Stephenson told Gaming Today. “Minnesotans deserve to be able to wager on sports in a safe and legal marketplace, just as people in over 30 states are able to do. Legalization will also allow us to address the very real issue of problem gaming in a serious way.”
2022’s HF 778, which aligned itself with tribal gaming, failed because Senate leaders also wanted to include sports betting at horse racing tracks. However, a compromise is possible in 2023.
Rep. Stephenson told the Minnesota Reformer that he sees the legislation he intends to propose in 2023 as an opportunity for regulation and consumer protection rather than income, stating that, “[t]his is not supposed to be a revenue-maker for the state of Minnesota, and I think it’s a bad idea to legalize sports betting just to fund the state’s treasury, nor do we need to do that right now.”
Minnesota is currently projecting a $17.6 billion budget surplus.
Local Tribes and Racetracks Key to Minnesota Gaming
Major backers of sports betting in Minnesota include national sportsbooks, racetracks, and professional teams throughout the state, while the strongest opposition comes from local tribes. But approval of both is required per the Tribal State Gaming Compacts of Minnesota.
Minnesota legislators advocating for sports gambling face differences of opinion between tribal lands and other stakeholders, including local racetracks. GOP Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller said last year that a plan without racetracks included wouldn’t get the support from his caucus.
“When it comes to sports betting, we need those stakeholders to continue to have discussions. It cannot be one-sided,” Miller said. “I know it wouldn’t pass the Senate — I can’t speak for the House.”
In a statement to the Reformer, the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) said it supports sports betting at tribal-owned casinos and mobile platforms.
“Tribes are best positioned to provide this new offering to the state’s consumers,” said MIGA Executive Director Andy Platto. He said MIGA will work to develop an approach that “benefits Minnesotans while protecting the Indian gaming operations that tribal and rural communities rely on for jobs and economic health.”
There are 11 tribes in the state of Minnesota that have previously expressed their concern about bringing sports betting to the state, and until February 2022, legalizing the activity seemed impossible. However, opposition appeared less adamant as of 2022. There are currently 18 tribal casinos within Minnesota, and they are likely to be part of any sports betting legislation passed.