Like CA, Multiple Parties Will Want A Piece Of Sports Betting In MN

Written By Adam Hensley on February 11, 2024 - Last Updated on February 12, 2024
A picture of moving parts for a story about how multiple interests in MN will be a tough hurdle to clear for lawmakers in sports betting legalization.

Minnesota is looking to expand gambling options to include sports betting, but are there too many cooks in the kitchen?

Tribal and commercial gaming interests both have a stake in the matter. Satisfying all parties and skeptical lawmakers could be a tough endeavor and deter the state’s ability to legalize sports betting.

In other states, tribes wanted total control of sports betting. But in Minnesota, racetrack and cardroom owners will seek a piece of the pie as well. The new industry would generate millions of dollars for operators and state coffers, based on the sheer amount of Minnesotans who are already trying to place legal bets.

Can lawmakers create a system that works for everyone?

Minnesota’s tribes must play a pivotal role

When it comes to expanding gambling in Minnesota, tribes must remain top of mind. Lawmakers like state Sen. Matt Klein recognize that. He voted against a bill in last year’s session of the Legislature to legalize sports betting.

“Tribal exclusivity will not be violated,” Klein said last May.

The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association is comprised of nine tribes. The organization does not support sports betting unless tribes have exclusivity.

Tribes have raised concerns that online sports betting will adversely impact casino revenue. Even a previous effort to enact a provision requiring players to register for online accounts in person at one of the state’s casinos fell short with tribes.

MIGA Executive Director Andy Platto wrote in a letter to the Senate last March that keeping sports betting and other gaming exclusive to the tribes protects their communities.

“Any time the state changes the gaming landscape, tribes must carefully consider whether such proposal strengthens, or in fact threatens, tribal sovereignty and self-determination.”

Racetracks in Minnesota want their fair share

The most recent sports betting bill, Minnesota Sports Betting Act 2.0, would give Minnesota’s tribes the option to offer retail or mobile sports betting. The tribes with sports betting licenses could then partner with racetracks on a sportsbook.

The two racetracks in the state, Canterbury Park and Running Aces, have said their ability to house a sportsbook shouldn’t rely on the tribes.

Canterbury Park spokesperson Jeff Maday told local Fox affiliate KMSP-TV that tracks deserve the opportunity to operate a sportsbook independently.

“We believe that both tracks and tribes should have full sports betting licenses. That market is mature enough for all of us to succeed. We just want that opportunity.”

How do Minnesota’s tribes and racetracks co-exist?

The relationship between the state’s tribes and racetracks has been contentious.

In 2023, one of Minnesota’s tribes, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota Racing Commission. The commission allowed Running Aces to add video blackjack. The tribe balked at the decision, arguing that racetracks cannot offer games of chance under state law.

They say the Interblock system, which is used by the racetracks, represents a game of chance. Running Aces contends it has been using the system since 2017 without opposition.

The case could have implications on sports betting as well when a court decision is ultimately made.

More than a decade ago, Canterbury Park tried to offer slot machines at its racetrack. In the summer of 2012, it dropped the idea at the request of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which paid the track $75 million to protect its gambling business.

Canterbury president and CEO Randy Sampson told CBS News at the time that it was a win-win.

“The agreement provides the best of all worlds. Our two businesses will focus on what we do best – in our case, that’s horse racing – and SMSC and Mystic Lake, they’ll continue to operate a world-class casino hotel and entertainment venue.”

California could offer lessons to Minnesota

Another state that looked to legalize sports betting recently is California. But special interest groups weren’t on the same page as the state’s tribes, and the effort fell flat.

An effort last month has also failed, meaning the question of legalizing sports betting in California is mute for now.

It’s been clear that tribes in California demand complete control over sports betting. A group that included Reeve Collins, Ryan Tyler Walz and Kasey Thompson led an effort that would have given the state’s tribes exclusive rights to operate both in-person and online sports betting.

The group, however, never solicited the support of the tribes it was supposedly representing. Thus, the men were viewed by tribes as outsiders. Chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, James Siva, said the effort was disrespectful to tribes.

“The entire effort surrounding these initiatives was handled abhorrently by the initiative sponsors. It is hard not to be offended when listening to these individuals speak. This is another example of outside influence trying to divide and conquer Indian tribes. We will not let history repeat itself.”

In what some may call an odd twist, California tribes actually partnered with the Sports Betting Alliance to shoot down the effort. The alliance consists of industry titans DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM and Fanatics.

It was an unlikely pairing, considering that tribes had spent millions of dollars to block the Alliance’s referendum to allow commercial sportsbooks to offer online sports betting in California.

While Minnesota can’t be compared to California, the balancing act between the competing interests over sports betting is a similar one. Tribal voices in Minnesota will likely reign supreme when it comes to sports betting, such as what happened in California.

Minnesota also must take into account the racetracks and their cardrooms, which may end up stalling any effort to add sports betting in the near future.

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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