Sports Betting Bill Advances Through Minnesota House Committee

Lawmakers took another step closer to legalizing mobile and retail Minnesota sports betting on Thursday morning when the House Ways & Means Committee passed House File 778.

State Rep. Zack Stephenson, the bill’s primary sponsor, opened the hearing by noting that the legislation has been “well-traveled”, having appeared before “seven or eight” committees to reach this point. 

The bill now goes before the full House for consideration. 

Committee Amends Minnesota Sports Betting Bill

Before the final vote, Stephenson offered an amendment to the bill making it self-sufficient. Under the term of his amendment, the setup and administration of sports betting in the state would be paid for out of the revenues raised. 

The amendment was passed by a voice vote.

State Rep. Tim Miller offered an amendment that would have eliminated the tax provisions of the bill. As written, the bill taxes revenue from sports betting not conducted on tribal lands at 10%.

State Rep. Paul Garofalo, a co-sponsor, spoke out against the amendment as did Stephenson arguing it would undercut the point of making the measure self-funding. 

It failed by a voice vote. 

Specific Details Of Sports Betting Legislation

As the bill has traveled through the Minnesota House it has been amended several times.  The latest version of the bill includes these provisions, among others:

  • 40% of sports betting tax revenue goes toward funding youth sports programs in disadvantaged areas;
  • 40% of revenue goes toward problem gambling programs;
  • Establishes two master licenses, one north of Interstate 94 and one south of Interstate 94.

Stephenson noted during the hearing that the amount of money going toward problem gambling was more than other states because he takes the issue “very seriously.”

“During my day job as a prosecutor, I have seen the harm that comes from people making poor decisions.  I know that happens.  Most people don’t have a problem with gambling, but some do and we need to offer this,” he said. 

Under the terms of the deal, the state’s Native American tribes would administer mobile sports betting. The bill directs the governor and the tribes to formulate a new compact. The bill does not allow for the state’s horse racing tracks to participate in sports betting.

Governor Tim Walz has previously indicated he is open to sports betting legislation that has the agreement of the state’s tribal interests.  

During previous committee hearings, representatives from the Minnesota Indian Gaming Commission encouraged lawmakers to support the bill but stopped short of outright endorsing it. 

Companion legislation, Senate File 574, has been sent to the Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee but has not yet had a hearing. 

According to the Minnesota Constitution, the state legislature is set to adjourn by May 23.

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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