Minnesota may finally have enough momentum and votes in the state legislature to pass a new bill that would legalize online sports betting in the Gopher State.
Under the terms of the Democratic Party proposal, Minnesota's tribal casinos would be granted exclusive rights to the 11 licenses that will allow them to offer both retail and mobile sports wagering.
Legislation, introduced Monday in the state House chamber by Rep. Zach Stephenson (D-Coon Rapids), marks a renewed effort to bring Minnesota into the U.S. legal sports betting market.
Stephenson said that the Minnesota Legislature is “back to finish the job” it started last year when the Democratic-controlled House passed his previous bill only to see it stall in the Senate led by its then-Republican majority.
But not only do the governing Democrats now control both legislative chambers, but the new online sports betting bill also has the backing of a newly-formed alliance between the state's tribal nations and its six pro sports franchises.
"Minnesotans have been waiting a long time for the opportunity to engage in fair sports betting," Rep. Stephenson said in a prepared statement.
"House (Democrats) have continued to listen to and consult with the 11 sovereign tribal nations and other stakeholders over the last few years to ensure the best outcome for Minnesotans. Our bill is a step in the right direction to ensure consumer protection while engaging in sports betting."
State tribes and pro sports franchises join forces
The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) has provided additional legitimacy to the bill by announcing its support for the legislation in an open letter to Rep. Stephenson:
"Were your bill to become law, MIGA Tribes believe the resulting mobile and retail markets operated by Minnesota’s Tribal Nations would not only support Tribes, but would also provide a well-regulated and accessible market for the state’s sportsbettors and a competitive market that is important to our state’s professional sports teams and market partners," read the MIGA letter.
Minnesota's six professional sports teams also issued a statement signaling that they have formed an alliance with the state's native tribes in support of the bill that would pave the way for the major league franchises to enter into lucrative partnerships with the leading U.S. sports betting sites.
"As you know, the Tribes and Teams have worked together for many months to find alignment on a bill that will create a vibrant market while providing for consumer protections. We greatly value our tribal partnerships, our opportunity to work with MIGA, and greatly respect Minnesota’s tribal nations," read the statement.
The Minnesota bill would impose a 10% state tax on online wagering that would exclusively fund gaming regulation, consumer protection, and programs devoted to problem gaming and youth sports. In-house wagers placed at tribal casinos would be tax-exempt.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Zack Stephenson, is similar to last year's failed attempt to legalize sports betting in one crucial respect: his proposal once again excludes Minnesota's Canterbury Park and Running Aces horse racing tracks and any other prospective state entrant from applying for retail and mobile sports betting licenses.
Rep. Stephenson said that giving exclusive rights to the tribes made the most sense because the state's native tribes enjoy the advantage of operating casinos across the state and are ideally suited to partnering with out-of-state sportsbooks.
He also said that there would likely not be enough support in the state House unless the tribes were granted exclusive rights to retail and online sports betting.
Sports betting vote expected in April
Stephenson said that he expects that his proposed legislation will need to clear a half dozen House and Senate committees prior to coming up for floor votes in each chamber sometime in April.
Another factor that improves the odds of legalizing retail and online sports betting this time around is that both Stephenson and his Senate counterpart are both Chairman of the key committees responsible for reviewing and giving preliminary approval to the legislation.
Rep. Stephenson is Chairman of the House Commerce Finance and Policy committee which is currently studying the bill.
Meanwhile, Sen. Matt Klein (D-Mendota Heights), who is co-sponsoring the bill in the Senate, heads up the powerful Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection.