Lawmakers: Sports Betting Bill Would Have Passed With More Time

Written By Mike Breen on May 30, 2024 - Last Updated on May 31, 2024

With all the obstacles that had to be overcome, it was time that proved insurmountable in the end.

That’s according to lawmakers who championed Minnesota sports betting legalization efforts during the 2024 legislative session. They ran out of time when the session concluded on May 20.

They told the MinnPost that the measure could have passed in both the House and Senate. However, partisan disagreements on unrelated issues caused the clock to run out before either chamber could vote to pass it.

The close call provides optimism for a Minnesota sports betting bill passing in 2025.

Lawmakers negotiated with stakeholders throughout 2024 session

Sen. Matt Klein and Rep. Zack Stephenson led this year’s efforts to pass sports betting legislation. They were the lead sponsors of the primary bills in their respective chambers. They helped shape the various measures into one bill that appeased all the stakeholders. That was something that seemed impossible even a week before the end of the session.

Republican legislators generally supported putting more into the bill to support the state’s struggling horse racing industry. Lawmakers in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party were intent on supporting the needs of Minnesota’s Native American tribes. Both Klein and Stephenson are members of the DFL. Their legislation would’ve only given the tribes the right to operate Minnesota sportsbooks.

Additionally, legislators’ negotiations also addressed concerns for charitable gaming groups. They had taken a funding hit when a 2023 law placed restrictions on electronic pull-tab games. Lawmakers in both parties also wanted more in the bill to address gambling addiction. They included consumer safeguards and funding for prevention and treatment.

Sports betting was a rare example of bipartisanship

Stephenson told the MinnPost that a compromise was finally found in the final bill that would have garnered bipartisan support.

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

Republican Rep. Pat Garofalo, a longtime supporter of sports betting, told the same outlet that if they had had 48 more hours to work on it, the bill would have passed. Even though polarizing partisanship on other bills killed sports betting legislation this year, he is confident that enough lawmakers from both parties would have supported it.

“I know there’s more important issues than sports gambling, but the barriers that legislators are dealing with in sports gambling are a symptom of a bigger problem. The fact that legislators of both parties with geographic diversity were able to get so close to an agreement … I think that’s a testament to the people who are involved in it, that these things still can happen.”

Final bill would have struck a balance

Precise details of what would have gone into the final bill remain unclear, as they would have been added during the final floor debates. The MinnPost story outlined some of the concessions that would have probably been in the bill.

Of the estimated $88 million in annual tax revenue from sportsbooks (taxed at 22%), 15% would have gone to a horse racing fund. Another 15% would have gone to a tribal equalization fund. It would have ensured that the state’s smaller tribes would still benefit from sports betting. Tribes were adamant that racetracks not receive more than smaller tribes.

The bill also included funding for a racing economic development account, which would have been used by the state’s two tracks for purses and other needs.

The final bill would also have allocated 45% to charitable gaming, 10% to attract national sporting events to Minnesota, and 5% to youth sports and other activities. The remaining 10% would have gone to problem gambling prevention and treatment.

To further address lawmakers’ problem gambling concerns, the final bill would have probably prohibited mobile sportsbook operators from sending push notifications to users when an app was closed. A previous Senate amendment to the bill that would have banned in-game betting was reportedly not included in the final legislation. However, according to the MinnPost, there was a ban on college sports player prop bets.

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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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