Feb 22, 2023 - News

Tribes, pro sports teams back new Minnesota sports betting bill

Illustration of someone holding playing cards with different sports balls on them instead of suits.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Minnesotans could legally bet on sports at tribal casinos and on their phones under a new proposal that has support from both the state's Native American tribes and its professional sports teams.

The big picture: Recent efforts to add Minnesota to the list of 33 states that currently allow the wagering in some form were derailed by disagreements over who should get to operate sports books.

What's new: The proposal introduced this week gives Minnesota's 11 tribal nations exclusive rights to licenses needed to operate both brick-and-mortar and mobile betting.

  • Revenue generated by the industry would be split between enforcement of regulations, addressing and treating gambling problems and youth sports.

What they're saying: DFL Rep. Zack Stephenson said at a news conference introducing the bill that the tribes are uniquely positioned to take the lead since they already run gambling operations across the state.

Between the lines: Bill authors in both chambers are chairs of influential committees that the legislation will need to clear.

  • DFL Sen. Matt Klein, who heads the Senate's commerce and consumer protection committee, said that their involvement signals how "how seriously we take our responsibility to get this done this year."
  • The influential Minnesota Indian Gaming Association and a coalition representing leaders of the state's professional sports teams also released letters endorsing the deal.

Between the lines: The state's horse racing tracks want a part in the proposed system. Running Aces CEO Taro Ito said in a statement that leaving them out "jeopardizes the future of the horse racing industry in Minnesota."

  • Key GOP legislators echoed those concerns Tuesday.
  • "We need to make sure all the stakeholders are at the table, that they're involved in the discussions, and that we provide as many opportunities for Minnesotans who do want to bet on sports legally to do so," said GOP Sen. Jeremy Miller, who is working on his own proposal that would include race tracks.

What we're watching: Cobbling together the votes to approve a sports betting bill could require bipartisan support, especially in the Senate, where Democrats have a one-vote majority.

  • Miller, a former GOP leader from Winona, says he thinks expanding eligibility beyond the tribes will be needed to secure enough votes to pass the Senate.
  • Klein, a Democrat from Mendota Heights, acknowledged that he doesn't currently have 34 votes to clear the chamber, but said he thinks Miller's "whip count may be off."

What's next: Stephenson said the bill will need to go through a half dozen committees in each chamber. He predicted floor votes no sooner than April.


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