Minnesota State Sen. Roger Chamberlain has tried to pass a sports betting bill for the past three years. He almost succeeded this year. But it’s uncertain if the four-term Senate Republican will be in the legislature next year to give it another try.
Chamberlain’s suburban Twin Cities district leans blue after it was redrawn by the courts this year. On Tuesday, he faces off with high school history teacher and Democrat Heather Gustafson at the polls. It is expected to be a tight race.
If Chamberlain loses, a Minnesota sports betting bill still has a chance at passing in 2023. Both Republicans and Democrats favored tribal-run in-person and mobile sports betting under bi-partisan legislation passed in the state House in 2022. What might be missing without Chamberlain in the Senate is language that would allow the state’s two horse racing tracks to offer sports betting alongside the state’s 11 tribal nations.
Inclusion of tracks in a Senate amendment to this year’s House sports betting bill apparently stalled negotiations last spring, according to a May 23 article on TwinCities.com.
Republicans might decide not to push for inclusion of tracks next year as a result. Or they might work with Minnesota tribes to try and bring tracks on board. It remains to be seen how much tribes – which control all 40 casinos in the state – and state lawmakers are willing to bend.
Tribes vs. Horse Racing Tracks Key to Minnesota Sports Betting
Adding tracks to this year’s sports betting bill seemed like a great idea to Chamberlain when he successfully amended the bill in committee on May 19.
“It’s long past time to legalize sports wagering in Minnesota,” Chamberlain was quoted as saying in a statement released that day by the Senate Republican Office. “This version is good for tribes, it’s good for tracks, and most importantly, it is great for consumers. It gives Minnesotans gaming options at brick-and-mortar locations and online vendors. It respects the Tribal Nations and provides a revenue stream to the state. It’s time to get this done.”
The House had passed its version of the bill by a slightly bipartisan 70-57 vote a few days earlier. That bill, sponsored by Democrat Rep. Zack Stephenson, included no mention of tracks in deference to Minnesota’s 11 tribal nations.
The tribes have made it clear they don’t want to compete with tracks in a Minnesota sports betting market. Chamberlain’s amendment wasn’t what many state lawmakers – at least among Democrats – and the tribes had bargained for.
Political support for the bill as amended quickly disintegrated. No sports betting bill was passed by session’s end on May 23.
Another Shot in 2023?
That said, tribes haven’t given up on the idea of sports betting. The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) issued this statement (published in the Aug. 1 MinnPost) after sports betting legislation stalled at the State Capitol last spring:
“MIGA tribes are still evaluating the outcome of the 2022 Legislative Session and continue to consider their future policy positions heading into 2023.”
Chamberlain hopes to be back in the Senate again next January to give sports betting another shot himself. In an email on Thursday, the Senator told Gaming Today he will pursue sports gaming again should he be reeleected next week. But don’t expect him to change his mind about the tracks.
“I have built up relationships with the stakeholders and I continue to support what consumers want, which is the option to play at brick-and-mortar and online venues, and through tribal nations and tracks, with commonsense protections for everyone involved,” he wrote.
More on Election Day: Minnesota Gubernatorial Candidates Support Sports Betting