Without Legislative Carryover, Sports Betting Could Be On Hold Until 2026

Written By Adam Hensley on April 17, 2024 - Last Updated on April 19, 2024
A construction sign about delays for a story about how sports betting might wait until 2026 in Minnesota.

Should Minnesota fail to advance any sports betting legislation this session, it might be a couple of years until the legislature passes anything.

Right now, two of the four Minnesota sports betting bills are essentially dead in the water. The other two must pass through the necessary committee by Friday, but time isn’t necessarily on their side.

The two that still have a fighting chance were carryovers from the 2023 session. But state law won’t allow legislation to hold its place and restart in 2025.

Here’s a closer look at what could be ahead.

Sports betting efforts start anew if they aren’t passed this year

Bills from 2024 will not carry over to 2025. In odd-numbered years, legislation can carry over to the following year. However, that’s not the case in even years.

HF 2000 and SF 1949 were in the system last year and carried over. Those two had the advantage of picking up where they left off in 2023.

Sen. Jeremy Miller introduced SF 3803 at the beginning of this legislative session. Additionally, Sen. John Marty just filed SF 5330 earlier this month. Neither made significant movement in the Senate with another bill already ahead of them.

Next carryover: 2025 to 2026

In 2025, Minnesota bills can be carried over into the next year. In other words, 2025 could be a fresh start for the subject.

Considering the pace at which things have moved, there’s a chance Minnesota sports betting could be delayed until 2026.

The two bills closest to meeting the necessary deadlines this year are HF 2000 and SF 1949. It’s no coincidence that these bills were both carried over from last year.

We’ve seen recent traction on Sen. Matt Klein‘s SF 1949. Sen. Jeremy Miller agreed to work together on Klein’s bill. This seemingly signals the end of SF 3803, as that was Miller’s brainchild. Klein himself said that he’s “got a good feeling about this,” but the clock is ticking.

There are a number of groups wanting a piece of the pie. And they may act as a roadblock until a resolution can be found, which could delay sports betting legalization.

HHR machines are a roadblock

Earlier this month, the Minnesota Racing Commission voted to allow historic horse racing machines at racetracks.

This is great news for racetracks, as they’ve wanted more ways to bring in revenue. They’ve pushed to be included in sports betting legislation, but so far, no bills allowing them to operate retail sportsbooks have gained any traction.

But the commission’s decision led to plenty of outcry.

Lawmakers and the state’s tribes aren’t on board. Rep. Zack Stephenson, who authored HF 2000, called the decision illegal and flat-out said that there will be no HHR machines within the state.

“The legislature will override it either by way of a sports betting bill or stand-alone bill. And they’ll love in court because they broke the law.”

Many consider HHR machines to be in the same boat as slot machines. And right now, only Minnesota’s tribes are allowed to offer slot machines. It’s an issue that heightens the conversation on tribal exclusivity, which has been a focal point in sports betting.

Native American tribes, racetracks may need to find middle ground

Minnesota’s tribes want control of a potential market. The state’s racetracks want to be able to operate retail sportsbooks, similar to other states.

It appears the tribes have more leverage in this situation, and lawmakers have emphasized keeping it this way. But the racetracks won’t back down without a fight.

It’s easier said than done, but the best path for legal sports betting in Minnesota would likely come through some compromise. Maybe it’s allocating more tax dollars to the racetracks if they aren’t able to operate sportsbooks. Or maybe they’re able to open their own books.

But as long as competing ideologies have some support, it won’t be an easy decision. This HHR wrinkle by the state’s racing commission only complicates things further.

“The path that we were on was to try to negotiate a compromise that everybody could live with,” Miller said. “This makes that path much more difficult. I think that folks will be much less inclined to accommodate the tracks. But we’ll just have to see how everything else plays out.”

Photo by PlayMinnesota
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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa, with experience covering online sports betting and gambling across Catena Media. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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