Despite having bipartisan support in the House and Senate, Minnesotans will have to wait longer to participate in legal sports betting. The legislative session ended Sunday evening, May 22nd, with only a bill produced from the House. Both bills sought to allow the state’s tribal casinos to provide access to in-person and mobile sports betting for anyone over 21 years old. Unfortunately, neither side could agree on whether to allow two horse racing tracks in the Twin Cities area, to also participate in sports betting.
Sports betting legalization in Minnesota seemed feasible this year; in fact, many leaders from the Senate and House had expressed support for passing a bill this legislative session.
Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL-Coon Rapids) believed this was the year it could happen in Minnesota. “The current sports gambling black market is indefensible. A majority of states have abandoned the underground market and instead chosen a legalized sports gambling marketplace. It is time for Minnesota to do the same,” said Stephenson.
Rep. Stephenson led sports betting efforts in the House alongside Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington). The bill in the House gave exclusive rights to the eleven Native American tribes across the state and cleared the House with a 70-57 vote on May 12th. The bill gained support from The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association throughout the committee sessions.
The Senate, however, did not want Native American Tribes to have exclusive rights to the sports betting market and sought the inclusion of horse tracks in Columbus and Shakopee to participate in sports betting as well. Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller made this abundantly clear, repeatedly saying that sports betting would need commercial entities added to pass the Senate.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) also gained support from Sen. Karla Bigham (DFL Cottage Grove). The bill would have allowed Canterbury Park in Shakopee and Running Aces in Columbus to offer their own sports betting services. The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association opposed the inclusion of the horse tracks, and Gov. Tim Walz had previously stated he would not sign any legislation not supported by the state’s tribal nations.
Since 2018, when the United States Supreme Court threw out the federal ban on state authorization of sports betting, more than 30 states have legalized sports betting. The surrounding states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota have all legalized sports wagering in some form.
Rep Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) was particularly frustrated that neither chamber could produce a proposal that reached Governor Walz’s desk despite bipartisan support. “(There are) too many legislators focused on short-term political considerations instead of thinking about what is best for the whole state,” he said. “The sports gambling issue is symbolic of how screwed up the lawmaking process is in Minnesota.”
There have been talks of a special session in Minnesota since the legislature missed the deadline for a few critical public safety and education funding bills. However, the session would most likely be short and not feature a discussion around sports betting.