Here’s Where We Stand With Minnesota’s 3 Sports Betting Bills

Written By Mike Breen on February 27, 2024 - Last Updated on February 29, 2024
A picture of a Minnesota sign for a story about where the state's sports betting bills stand.

Sports betting legislation petered out at the end of last year’s legislative session. But it’s making its way through the Minnesota legislature again this year.

Lawmakers are considering multiple Minnesota sports betting bills in the state Senate and House of Representatives.

The two bills from last year – Senate File 1949 and House File 2000 – carried over to the current legislative session. Sen. Jeremy Miller also filed Senate File 3803, informally called the “Minnesota Sports Betting Act 2.0.”

Here’s a look at where things currently stand with each bill.

Bipartisan support will be necessary to pass sports betting legislation

All three sports betting bills have begun the consideration process in various legislative committees. There, lawmakers discuss and offer amendments before moving the bill to other committees. The ultimate goal is to bring a bill to the floor for a full vote.

Gov. Tim Walz has suggested he’d sign a bill into law if the House and Senate were to approve one. However, legislators have to deal with tribal and commercial interests. Thus, legislators representing both sides will require concessions in the committee process before making it to Walz’s desk.

There are the state’s 11 Native American tribal communities, which exclusively operate Minnesota’s casinos. Minnesota’s two horse racetracks have also been struggling and seeking other revenue streams, including, potentially, a piece of the sports betting pie.

Charitable gaming concerns have also been a part of the sports betting discussion in the Legislature.

But there’s not a ton of time to get things done. The legislative session ends on May 20.

Necessary negotiations involved in legalizing sports betting include navigating the current political makeup of Minnesota’s Legislature. The state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party currently holds the majority in both the House and Senate. Meanwhile, members of both parties expressed opposition to sports betting, making bi-partisan support tough to find.

Republican-driven SF 3803 just getting started

The Minnesota Sports Betting Act 2.0 was announced in late January by its sponsor, Miller.

Miller’s SF 3803 would give the state’s tribes primary control over retail and mobile sports betting. But it would also spread the wealth by allowing tribes to partner with Minnesota’s professional sports teams and horse racetracks.

Miller’s bill would also restore some of the limits on charitable gaming options (like electronic pull-tabs) included in an omnibus tax bill Walz signed last year.

Minnesota Sports Betting Act 2.0 would levy a 15% state tax on sports betting. Tax revenue would go to providing tax relief to local charities and grants to attract events to the state, like the Super Bowl. Other tax funds would go to racetracks, gambling treatment and youth athletics programs.

Lack of tribal exclusivity could stall SF 3803

Unlike the bills introduced last session, SF 3803 hasn’t been examined by the usual litany of committees it would likely need to go through before a floor vote.

On Feb. 15, the legislature assigned Miller’s bill to the Senate’s State and Local Government and Veterans Committee. That committee’s first meeting of the current session is scheduled for Feb. 29.

In the past, Republican lawmakers have fought for concessions to the state’s racetracks. A representative from Canterbury Park told PlayMinnesota sister site Legal Sports Report that they appreciate the nod to the tracks in SF 3803 but still feel they should get full licensing privileges.

In the past, Minnesota’s tribes have helped kill bills that threatened their gaming exclusivity. Miller’s bill will also likely face resistance from DFL members and the state’s DFL-aligned governor, who’ve indicated anything threatening tribal exclusivity would be a deal-breaker.

Companion House-Senate bills give tribes sports betting exclusivity

State Sen. Matt Klein introduced SF 1949 near the beginning of the Senate’s 2023 session. Fellow DFL lawmaker Rep. Zack Stephenson introduced its companion bill, HF 2000, in the House at the same time.

The bills grant sports betting exclusivity to Minnesota’s 11 tribes and call for a 10% tax rate on revenue. The bills would divide tax revenue between problem gambling programs and the state’s amateur sports integrity and participation account.

SF 1949 passed through seven committees last year before Klein, days before the session ended, offered a concession to the racetracks with an amendment that would have given them 30% of sports betting tax revenue. But track owners were unhappy with stipulations for how that money could be spent.

Last session, SF 1949 ran out of time before a final bill made it to the floor for a vote.

The bill was reintroduced this year on Feb. 19 and referred to the Committee of Commerce and Consumer Protection, of which Klein is the chair. The bill was not on the agenda for the committee’s Feb. 20 meeting.

During a recent appearance on Minnesota PBS state affairs program “Almanac,” Klein suggested that, instead of fighting to win over Republican votes in the Senate, he believes he may be able to convert the few DFL senators who’ve opposed sports betting over concerns with problem gambling and alleged “predatory practices” of operators.

Klein said his bill might not require bi-partisan support to pass.

“I’m not positive that’s the case. If we can get an all-DFL bill, I’ll continue to work on that, and I think it’ll be a better bill for Minnesotans.”

House bill has first committee hearing

Meanwhile in the House, Stephenson’s HF 2000 had its first committee hearing of the year on Feb. 22. In the Human Services Finance Committee, lawmakers discussed problem gambling issues before voting to advance the bill to the State and Local Government Committee.

Stephenson said that since sports betting is already thriving illegally in the state, legalizing it would be better to address problem gambling concerns because it would allow regulators to provide safeguards.

Just before the committee hearing, the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association submitted a letter of support for HF 2000.

In 2022, Stephenson sponsored a similar sports betting bill, HF 778, which was passed in the House. It ultimately failed to move forward in the then-Republican-controlled Senate.

Photo by PlayMinnesota
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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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