Grim Outlook For Sports Betting, No Hearings With Deadline A Day Away

Written By Adam Hensley on April 18, 2024 - Last Updated on April 19, 2024
A picture of an online sportsbook with an absent sign over it

Legal sports betting in Minnesota appears to be a pipe dream again this year. And with no carryover on bills in even years, it looks like it might not even happen next year.

On the eve of the April 19 committee deadline, there are no hearings for any Minnesota sports betting bills.

Legislators can’t move to the floor for a general vote if they don’t discuss and vote on the bills.

While two bills to legalize sports betting in the North Star State still have a chance to make it to a floor vote, two others do not. And the two that remain alive could be stymied by disagreements over historical horse racing machines at Minnesota racetracks.

Two bills are still alive … barely

All four states that border Minnesota allow sports betting. Lawmakers first began Minnesota sports betting legalization efforts five years ago. All measures have failed, and the same seems likely in 2024.

With no votes currently scheduled, both House File 2000 and Senate File 1949 could die in committee. HF 2000 sits in the House Taxes Committee, while SF 1949 is stuck in the Senate Finance Committee.

The other two sports betting bills, Senate File 5330 and Senate File 3803, never made it to a fiscal committee, a requirement to make it to a floor vote. Sen. John Marty filed the former late in the session and is not in a committee. The latter resides in the Senate Local Government and Veterans Committee.

HHR discussion could derail sports betting again

Earlier this month, the Minnesota Racing Commission (MRC) approved historical horse racing (HHR) machines at the state’s two racetracks: Canterbury Park and Running Aces.

It was a win for the racetracks, as HHR machines are a revenue source for the tracks. The sports betting bills making the most progress don’t allow the tracks to operate retail sportsbooks.

Minnesota lawmakers and tribes argue that HHR games are slot machines, thus, they fall under casino gambling, and only the state’s tribes can offer casino gambling in Minnesota.

While the HHR machine debate doesn’t involve sports betting explicitly, it has nonetheless created a hurdle for sports wagering legislation.

Rep. Zack Stephenson, who authored HF 2000, said lawmakers won’t let the MRC’s decision stand. They are trying to reverse that decision via the sports betting measures, which creates an obstacle that is not easily overcome.

“People should make no mistake – there’s not going to be historical horse racing. The Legislature will override it either by way of a sports betting bill or stand-alone bill. And they’ll lose in court because they broke the law.”

What isn’t on lawmakers’ side, though, is the deadline.

It could be a while before sports betting comes to fruition in Minnesota

Another issue is the fact that bills from this legislative session cannot carry over into 2025. Carryover is only allowed during the biennium, which begins July 1 in odd-numbered years and continues to June 30 of the next odd-numbered year. That is when the state’s budget is finalized.

That means sports betting might not be considered again until 2026, as July 2025 is after the 2025 legislative session ends.

The two sports betting bills currently in committees carried over from 2023. And it’s no coincidence that they were the ones that gained the most traction.

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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