Minnesota Sports Betting Hopes Dead for 2022

Minnesota Sports Betting Hopes Dead for 2022 article feature image

Stephen Maturen/Getty Images. Pictured: Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Minnesota ended its legislative session Monday without a path forward to legalize sports betting.

Over the weekend, the Senate declined to take up a bill (HF 778) passed by the House that would have authorized online and retail sports betting under the control of Minnesota's 11 native tribes.

It's the third year in a row legalization efforts fell short, as both chambers couldn't agree on giving tribes exclusive reign over the business.

The bill would have imposed a 10% tax on gaming revenue, which would have raised $5.6 million in 2024 and $12.8 million in 2025, according to a fiscal note.

That would have jumped to between $20 million and $30 million a year once the market matured, according to senate fiscal analyst Jay Willms.

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Minnesota's Tribal Control Dispute

Before adjourning, the Senate Finance Committee amended the House bill to let racetracks and professional sports teams apply for sports betting licenses alongside the tribes.

Tribes responded by pulling their support for the bill.

"HF 778 is based on the recognition that tribal gaming has an unblemished reputation and expertise in conducting gambling and thus entrusts tribes to exclusively operate as sports betting license holders," Andy Platto, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, said in a letter to the Senate Finance Committee. "But to be clear, MIGA has consistently opposed the expansion of non-tribal commercial gaming and will continue to do so. "

Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R), who introduced the amendment, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last week, he explained his amendment as a way to protect consumers from being at the mercy of one oddsmaker.

“We can’t just have maybe two licenses in the state and maybe hope for others," he said. "You need to have a healthy market of different odds and different prices.”

The version of the bill passed by the House would have created two "master" mobile licenses: one for northern tribes and one for southern tribes. It would have allowed commercial operators to open up shop in the state, only through contracts with native tribes.

Rep. Zack Stephenson (D), the bill sponsor, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Earlier this session, he defended giving tribes exclusive control, saying they were best positioned to handle "the biggest change to [Minnesota's] gambling laws in 40 years."

Navigating Tribal Gaming

Minnesota isn't the only state where native tribes and their role in gaming have presented an obstacle to legalizing sports betting. In California, several tribes have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to block commercial online operators from entering the state.

Most tribes see these companies — DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, etc. — as threats to their state gaming compacts. Once they get a piece of sports betting, commercial operators will likely focus on legalizing iGaming, which could take away from tribal casinos.

In other tribal states, like Connecticut, the tribes and commercial companies have successfully partnered together to offer legal sports betting. Only time will tell if a tribal monopoly makes for worse odds, as Chamberlain suggested.

Minnesota lawmakers will likely try again next year, though unless they get 100% control, tribes are expected to continue blocking any efforts to legalize sports betting.

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