Minnesota is a sports state. Its seven professional sports franchises make that hard to deny.
So, why doesn’t this state with such a huge sports fan base have legal sports betting?
That’s what Minnesota State Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, would like to know.
Garofalo and Sen. Karla Bigham (DFL) of Cottage Grove tried to get sports betting through the House and Senate this year. Both lawmakers’ bills would have tethered retail sports betting to Minnesota’s tribal casinos and racetracks, with online sports betting at least initially tied to the casinos. Neither made it to the floor for a vote.
It was almost a repeat of what happened to Republican Senate Assistant Majority Leader (then Senate tax chair) Roger Chamberlain’s bill in 2019. That bill passed the Senate Taxes Committee only to stall in another committee late in the session.
But Garofalo isn’t giving up on sports betting. He told Star Tribune Sports radio host Michael Rand on Sept. 9 that sports betting will become legal in Minnesota, sooner or later. “That is going to happen, I just can’t tell you when,” Garofalo said.
“The real variable is going to be when the average Minnesotan– the person who wants this — contacts their legislators and says ‘hey, I want this to happen. This is an issue for me’” he said. “People tend to be responsive to voters when they’re in elected office.”
Tribal Gaming And MN Sports Betting
Tethering online sports betting to in-state casinos — all 40 which are run by Minnesota’s compacted tribal nations — was proposed by Garofalo and Bigham in an effort to fast track sportsbook legislation this year. Only sportsbook apps and websites partnered with a casino would have been able to accept sports wagers after a 12-month initial retail rollout.
The idea behind the proposal was to reassure Minnesota’s tribes that they have a seat at the bargaining table. Both proposals tanked anyway.
None of this has kept Minnesotans from betting on sports. They are betting legally right across the border in Iowa and other states, or betting through offshore sportsbooks online.
The difference is that revenue isn’t staying in Minnesota. Right now the state is losing what could be $120 million or more in tax revenue, based on Chamberlain’s early estimate that legal sports wagering in-state could top $2 billion a year. Tribes are losing out of what could be their share of revenues from legal sports betting at their casinos and partnered apps.
“For various reasons we’re just kind of stuck in the mud,” Garofalo said of Minnesota’s reluctance to make sports betting legal.
Minnesota will have another chance to legalize sports betting during the 2022 yearly session that begins on Jan. 31. Assuming legislation passes, sports betting could potentially launch in the North Star State later next year.
Garofalo told Michael Rand that he thinks a push for sports betting by pro sports leagues and fans will continue to move the issue forward.
“In addition to the consumers’ preference for this and being able to engage in it, those who run pro sports teams … are very interested in seeing sports betting legalized” because it increases viewership and revenue, said Garofalo. “That’s what you want, is people’s attention.”
“Every day that goes by without this passing is costing (those teams) money. So, you’re going to continue to see this momentum and pressure build,” he added.