Time Runs Out On Minnesota Sports Betting in 2024

Written By Mike Breen on May 20, 2024 - Last Updated on May 21, 2024
An expired hourglass

Despite several days of marathon sessions in the Minnesota Legislature’s House and Senate, lawmakers have failed to pass sports betting legislation again. The 2024 session ends without a bill emerging from either chamber.

All voting had to occur before midnight Sunday. After days of maneuvering, negotiations with stakeholders, and attempts to overcome deep political divides, the sports betting bill that held the most promise of passing, House File 5274, met the same fate as all the others.

Rep. Zack Stephenson, who championed the legislation in the House, isn’t completely defeated. He is buoyed by Minnesota sports betting progress this year and is confident all sides can come together next year.

Chaotic Final Day Ends Wout A Full House Vote

HF 5274 was initially on the House calendar for floor discussion and a possible vote last week. But partisan division arose over an unrelated bill, the Equal Rights Amendment, which sought to protect abortion and LBGTQ+ rights.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman said Republicans were filibustering the ERA and other bills to delay (or potentially block) passage. She also suggested Republicans would withhold votes on bills requiring bipartisan support, including the sports betting bill. Due to extensive discussions on various bills and motions throughout the weekend, HF 2574 never made it to the House floor.

In the final hour of voting on Sunday, chaos erupted. The majority Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmakers in both chambers bypassed motions for further discussion and forced final votes on several bills. Unfortunately, sports betting was not one of them.

Stephenson Says Progress Bodes Well for Future

An hour-and-a-half before the voting deadline, Stephenson conceded defeat on social media. He said a deal had actually been reached on the sports betting bill that satisfied the various stakeholders.

Stephenson posted on X that he was hopeful this year’s work would lay the groundwork for the future.

“We’re going to come up just short on the sports betting bill this year. But in the last few days we proved that we could find a deal that all the major stakeholders could live with. Tribes, tracks, charities … That’s meaningful progress that can be a foundation for the future.”

Lawmakers Now Know Which Obstacles to Overcome Next Year

On the Senate side, Sen. Jeremy Miller had been working to garner support from his fellow Republicans for his sports betting bill. On Sunday afternoon, Miller seemed slightly optimistic that Senate File 3803 could pass with bipartisan support.

In a post on X, Miller said the bill would benefit “local charities, horse racing tracks, tribes, problem gambling services, youth sports, and funding to bring major sporting events to Minnesota.”

Throughout the committee process, Stephenson and other lawmakers lobbying for sports betting attempted to negotiate with a variety of stakeholders in an effort to find bi-partisan backing. Republicans generally sought more concessions in the bill for the state’s horse racetracks and charitable gaming groups.

HF 5274 would have given the state’s Native American tribes exclusivity over mobile and retail sports betting. The racetracks felt that was unfair and would further damage the struggling racing industry. The charitable gaming organizations had previously expressed support thanks to a large tax break that was added to the bill in March. Officials said the groups suffered financial loss after a law passed last year placed restrictions on electronic pull-tab games.

Several lawmakers from both parties also sought more problem gambling protections.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Mike Breen

As a contributor to PlayMinnesota, Mike Breen covers most angles of the state's gambling industry. Currently, he is focusing on the state's legislative progress surrounding sports betting bills. However, he can be found writing about many aspects of Minnesota gaming.

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