Minnesota House Passes Sports Betting Bill

The Minnesota House of Representatives passed MN sports betting legislation on Thursday, 70-57. 

“This is an idea whose time has come,” said state Rep. Zach Stephenson, the bill’s primary sponsor.

The measure now goes to the Senate where it faces an uncertain future. 

Specifics Of Sports Betting Bill

The House spent much of Thursday night debating the measure, House File 778. It was amended several times before final passage.  As passed the bill:

  • Bans sports betting at race tracks, a key difference from companion legislation in the Senate;
  • Restricts the amount of notifications sportsbook companies can send to phones;
  • Gives tribes exclusive rights to mobile sports betting;
  • Sends a portion of the proceeds of sports betting to a fund creating safe sport alternatives for children.

The exclusion of race tracks from sportsbook operations is a major obstacle between the House and Senate bill.  

A key Senate lawmaker told reporters Tuesday he didn’t think his chamber would take up HF 778 as written. 

“Sports gambling is still a work in progress,” Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller told the Duluth News Tribune

“I think that if the stakeholders can come together and try to find some common ground, where there are opportunities available at the tribal casinos, as well as the tracks, and perhaps if there’s something we can do to help benefit our charities, I think you could still get it done this session. But we’re running out of time for that to happen.”

The Minnesota Legislature ends its spring session and adjourns for the summer in less than two weeks.

Opponents Argue House Bill Is Flawed

HF 778 was introduced in February and initially it seemed to garner strong support

Kansas’s governor signed its sports betting law Thursday making it the 35th state to approve the practice. Minnesota seemed destined for a similar path. But opponents are upset with the monopoly the bill creates for the state’s tribes. 

State Rep. Nolan West compared the bill to what passed in Iowa last year. He noted race tracks in Iowa have lost a significant amount of money since sports betting was legalized.

“If in Minnesota they lose the same amount they would be doomed,” he said. 

Others question whether enough is being done to combat problem gambling. 

“In gambling, someone has to lose for you to win,” said state Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt recalled on the floor how he received a notice from a woman he declined to name, but who was advocating for the bill.  He later said he determined it was his mother. He said the bill was flawed and needed to be fixed before it was passed.

“Not even my mother could convince me to vote for this bill,” he said.

Where Sports Betting Stands Now

The Senate appears unlikely to take up HF 778 as written. 

Companion legislation, Senate File 574, was introduced in February and has not had a hearing.  

Stephenson has met with tribal leaders and other stakeholders as he has shepherded HF 778 through the legislative process. He told lawmakers Minnesotans want the issue resolved. 

“Minnesotans want us to have this conversation. They want this to be legal. This is a step in the right direction,” he said.

About the Author
Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is a writer and contributor for Gaming Today with a focus on legislation and political content. Mary 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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