New MN Bill To Legalize Sports Betting Includes Youth Sports Funding

Written By TJ McBride on February 9, 2024
A picture of a little leaguer making a catch for a story about youth sports funding in a new bill to legalize sports betting in Minnesota.

Minnesota legislators are attempting to legalize sports betting with a unique goal in mind. Tax dollars from sports wagering, if legalized, would help fund youth sports across the state in addition to a few other programs.

Many states put most of their tax dollars from sports betting toward education. Others allocate some of the taxes for repairing infrastructure. Youth sports are not usually high on the list of priorities. 

But other states didn’t have Sen. Jeremy Miller. Miller introduced the Minnesota Sports Betting Act. 2.0 in January. The bill allocated portions of the tax revenue for youth sports funding. Additionally, it addresses many of the concerns lawmakers voiced about last year’s bill.

Thanks in part to the changes, the odds of legal Minnesota sports betting seem slightly higher this year — and residents have shown a clear interest in placing legal wagers.

Sports betting would be taxed at 15% under proposal

Lawmakers are working toward legalization through the Minnesota Sports Betting Act 2.0.

This new edition of the sports betting bill states that both retail and mobile sports wagering would be taxed at 15%. Tax revenue would then be distributed to six different entities:

  • Provide charitable gaming tax relief for local charities
  • Attract major sports events to the state
  • Boost horse racing
  • Provide problem gambling resources
  • Support youth sports
  • Facilitate athlete education programs

Study: Many kids being priced out of youth sports in Minnesota

Including youth sports funding in the bill makes sense for Minnesota. Youth sports are struggling in the North Star State.

A study from KARE 11 in Minnesota included an interview with Dr. Nicole LaVoi. She is the director of the University of Minnesota Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport. LaVoi said the cost of youth sports is rapidly increasing. Thus, many are priced out of the activities. 

“Youth sports are broken in many ways. The umbrella of the brokenness is that youth sports has become overspecialized, commercialized and highly exclusive. It’s become very expensive, and a lot of kids are being left out in terms of who can play and who cannot.”

Another issue is lack of referees. As money gets tight, making time to officiate youth sports events is becoming less feasible for many. Incentivizing potential referees with a more substantial paycheck could make a sizable difference. Minnesota State High School League’s Associate Director Bob Madison told KARE 11 that incentivization is needed to bring in more referees.

“We have to make sure that we (have) incentive (for) people to become officials. And it can’t just happen at the high school level. We need them at the youth level.”

Youth sports help children grow in productive ways. Physical activity and learning to develop social skills and the ability to work with a team help shape kids into productive adults. LaVoi added that youth sports are the only place to learn those skills.

“Really, at the end of the day, playing sports should be about being physically active, having fun and developing social, emotional and physical skills.”

New York could be a model for Minnesota

Miller’s bill does not specifically pinpoint where funds for youth sports would go if Minnesota legalized sports betting. But there is precedent on how the process might look.

In New York – one of the only other states that funds youth sports through gaming – grant money is available for sports programs to request. The only issue has been educating sports programs that the money exists. Much of the funds remain unused, but the state is working to change that.

Minnesota would need to learn the lessons from New York and develop a successful system to get the funds to youth sports programs.

Miller’s bill still faces uphill climb

Youth sports may need the boost that sports wagering would provide, but there are still opponents of the expansion of gaming. Miller recognizes these adversaries and has adjusted the bill to better cater to the needs of all parties involved.

Miller says the bill’s intent is to bring all sides together.

“Minnesota continues to miss out on what is now a $100 billion industry,” he said in a press release. “So far, 38 other states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., have already legalized sports betting. This updated proposal combines ideas from my original Minnesota Sports Betting Act along with provisions from other sports betting bills that were introduced last session. It also includes ideas brought forward by constituents and stakeholders. The goal of this proposal is to bring folks together to work toward a bipartisan solution to legalize sports betting in Minnesota. I strongly believe we can get it done this year.”

A previous sports betting bill known as HF2000 prohibited wagering on horse races, which led to pushback from the racing industry. The new version of the bill includes tax dollars to boost horse racing in the state.

There were also worries that charitable gambling entities would suffer with the legalization of sports betting. The new bill includes tax dollars for charitable gaming operators to receive tax relief.

Even with all the changes, the bill still faces a rocky road toward passage.

Photo by AP Photo / Gene Puskar
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TJ McBride

T.J. McBride is a writer and reporter based in Denver. He covers the gaming landscape across multiple states in addition to his main beat covering the NBA’s Denver Nuggets. His NBA work can be found at several major media outlets including ESPN, FiveThirtyEight and Bleacher Report.

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