Lawmakers Say Sports Betting Divide Remains in Minnesota

Written By Adam Hensley on June 20, 2024
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Efforts to legalize Minnesota sports betting fell short this year in the Legislature.

Lawmakers who championed the issue said legislation would have passed had time not run out in the session. They said they are confident it will pass in 2025.

Not so fast, say other Minnesota lawmakers. They contend that several divides remain, and Minnesota sports betting is far from a done deal.

Stephenson says foundation in place for next year

After sports betting failed again in the Legislature earlier this year, lawmakers who sponsored legislation said they were optimistic a measure would have passed if there had been time for a floor vote.

Rep. Zack Stephenson, who championed sports betting in the House, took to social media immediately after the session ended. He acknowledged that while the bill came up short, the days leading up to the deadline “proved we could find a deal that all major stakeholders could live with.”

“Tribes, tracks, charities … that’s meaningful progress that can be a foundation for the future.”

Significant support from both political parties was also necessary to pass a sports betting measure. They had it, Stephenson told MinnPost.

“We believe we have the support of the tribes, the tracks, the charities, bipartisan support in both chambers if we had an opportunity to have it on the floor for a vote.”

Rep. Pat Garofalo told MinnPost that they needed just a couple more days to put it all together.

“I think if we had another 48 hours, I think we could do this. I sincerely mean that. We really could.”

Others say sports betting not a sure thing

Some Minnesota lawmakers are pushing back on that claim. They say sports betting was further away than some have indicated.

Sen. Eric Maye Quade recently told the Star Tribune that significant opposition remains.

“We were able to highlight that there were so many different kinds of people opposed to sports betting for so many different reasons.”

He said sports betting in Minnesota is anything but a sure thing.

“There was definitely a sense before the session of inevitability of sports betting legalization. I don’t believe that’s true anymore.”

Sen. Jordan Rasmusson, a Republican, told the Star Tribune that he doesn’t think the support conveyed was actually there.

“If the Democratic leadership thought they had the votes, they would have scheduled it for a vote. There was a lot of bipartisan oppression to rushing sports betting through.”

There was no clear bipartisan agreement on certain aspects of the sports betting legislation.

  • What role would the state’s horse racetracks play in sports betting?
  • What safeguards would be in place to combat problem gambling?
  • Would charities benefit from sports betting?
  • How would Native American tribes operate a sports betting industry?

Other concerns remain unresolved

Maye Quade, Sen. John Marty and Minnesota Catholic Conference Executive Director Jason Adkins all pointed out to the Star Tribune that several issues beyond the stakeholders had to be debated.

They said some states that have rushed sports betting now have regrets. For instance, coaches at the collegiate level are concerned for their student-athletes, and professional athletes are receiving bans for wagering on events.

They say there were too many concerns still unresolved to pass a sports betting bill in Minnesota.

Rasmusson told the Star Tribune that he was “surprised at the (post-session) victory lap for a bill that failed to pass either chamber of the Legislature.”

What’s next for Minnesota sports betting?

There’s no doubt that the Legislature will once again consider Minnesota sports betting in the 2025 legislative session.

Lawmakers in favor of sports betting believe residents are hungry for it. Sen. Jeremy Miller, for instance, told the Star Tribune that sports betting is one of the issues he hears about the most from Minnesotans.

Despite the issue gaining momentum in the last session, several concerns must be addressed. And there must be true bipartisan support.

Sen. Matt Klein, another supporter of sports betting, told the Star Tribune he felt as though the issue was at an impasse.

“At the end of the day, I don’t know how to get past people in my caucus who are just committed to killing this thing.”

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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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