Minnesota Sports Betting Bill Scores First Victory


There’s legislative life for regulated sports wagering in Minnesota as a Democrat-backed bill sailed through its first committee hearing on Monday.

Minnesota Twins logo
The Minnesota Twins team logo stands above the center field suites at the team’s Target Field in Minneapolis. Poll results released Sunday show 48% of Minnesota likely voters surveyed support legalizing sports betting. (Image: Terry Foote/Wikipedia)

Rep. Zack Stephenson’s (D-Coon Rapids) HF 2000 passed through the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee yesterday by a 10-6 vote. It now moves onto the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee. This is the second consecutive year in which Stephenson has proposed sports wagering legislation.

There’s bipartisan support for regulated sports wagering in Minnesota. Earlier this month, State Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) rolled out the Minnesota Sports Betting Act.

With 2023 not being an election year, it’s possible that sports wagering gains traction in Minnesota. Plus, it’s widely known that neighboring states Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin beating Minnesota to the sports wagering party is a source of consternation for some Minnesota policymakers. Iowa in particular because that state offers mobile wagering and is one of the fastest-growing states on that front.

Minnesota Has Right Tribal/Commercial Mix

Unlike Miller’s bill, Stephenson’s proposal promises sports wagering exclusivity to the 11 Minnesota Native American tribes with gaming interests.

The Democrat’s legislation would allow those 11 tribal operators to open retail sportsbooks at land-based casinos and give them each a “skin” to market to an online partner, such as DraftKings or FanDuel. Representatives from DraftKings testified alongside members of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) at the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee hearing on Monday.

“Were HF 2000 to become law, MIGA tribes believe the resulting mobile and retail markets operated by Minnesota tribal nations would not only support tribes, but would also provide well-regulated and accessible options for the state’s sports bettors and a competitive market that is important to our state’s professional sports team and market partners,” said Andy Plato, MIGA executive director.

That’s a more practical approach than what was taken by tribes in California and Washington State. California doesn’t have sports wagering in any form because tribal casino operators refuse to compete, and Washington State is an essentially meaningless player in the US sports wagering landscape because it confines the activity to tribal casinos.

Walz Support Essential for Minnesota Sports Betting

Gov. Tim Walz (D-MN) previously indicated he’s supportive of regulated sports wagering in the state, but he’s likely to only back legislation that protects tribal gaming interests.

The lingering issues are exactly how much of a priority it is for Walz and the state’s racetracks. Last year, a sports wagering bill collapsed in Minnesota after it was amended to include pari-mutuel facilities. Stephenson’s legislation doesn’t include the two tracks.

Those operators want in on the sports betting action and there’s speculation the legislation is being refined to include them.

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