Minnesota Sports Betting Faces Dicey Future In State Senate

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Senate version of Minnesota sports betting bill would give horse tracks like Canterbury Park a piece of the action (AP Photo/Genevieve Ross)

Sports betting in Minnesota is on life support

That’s the takeaway from the Minnesota Senate Finance Committee, which met for more than two hours today to debate an amended version of House File 778.

The measure, which passed the House earlier this month, passed out of the committee 5-4. But it now goes to the full Senate, and it is unclear when, or even if, it will come up for a floor vote.

The Minnesota Legislature adjourns next week. 

Two Very Different Sports Betting Bills

The biggest difference between the House-passed version and the Senate-amended version is the treatment of horse tracks, such as Canterbury Park. The House version does not allow sports betting at horse tracks. The Senate’s does. 

The House version, which has the support of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, gives tribes the exclusive right to administer mobile sports betting. 

“Through the stakeholder process, [House advocates] crafted a bill that accomplishes the goal of providing a safe and competitive marketplace for Minnesota sports bettors, without threatening the viability of tribal gaming in the state,” MIGA said in a statement released to the committee.

The group made clear nine of the 10 tribes in Minnesota support the House version.  However, all of the tribes oppose the amended Senate version. 

State Sen. Roger Chamberlain, the lead sponsor in the Senate, told the committee the amended version was necessary to make for a competitive marketplace and for the industry to thrive. 

“That doesn’t work for a business model,” he said, referring to limited licenses for just the tribes. 

Next Steps For Minnesota Sports Betting

The issue of sports betting is contentious in Minnesota. There is no guarantee the Senate version will pass the full chamber if it comes up for a vote.  

Furthermore, there is little time to reconcile the significant differences between the two bills. 

During the hearing, opponents questioned the need to rush the bill through when it hasn’t been reviewed by numerous relevant committees. The House version, by comparison, appeared before several committees this spring. 

“What committees has this been through?,” asked state Sen. Bobby Joe Champion. “It seems like there is a lot of work to do.”

State Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer is a member of the Finance committee who also chairs the State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee. She said she had scheduled a hearing for the bill in her committee “where it should be heard,” but that it was pulled by someone else. 

“There is a reason why we go through these committees,” she said. 

Sports Betting Already Taking Place In Minnesota

Chamberlain appeared frustrated toward the end of the hearing and advocated to those who opposed the measure that they should want to address illegal gambling.

“There is $10 billion worth of gaming going on the state right now,” he said. His bill would help eliminate that he said. 

“Perhaps you have to do something about what is going on right now.”

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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