Minnesota lawmakers take another shot at sports betting bill

Published 5:38 pm Wednesday, February 16, 2022

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ST. PAUL — Another push for sports betting legislation appears to be gaining momentum as Minnesota lawmakers on Wednesday announced a bipartisan legalization effort.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers in both chambers have a renewed interest in legalizing sports gambling after past attempts failed to get support in the Legislature and among the state’s American Indian tribes.

Republican Sen. Roger Chamberlain, of Lino Lakes, is leading the effort in the GOP-controlled Senate while Democratic Rep. Zack Stephenson, of Coon Rapids, is preparing to introduce his own bill in the House.

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“We are an island in the Midwest,” Chamberlain said at a news conference Wednesday. “The proposal here is good for the tribes, it’s good for the tracks and most importantly, it’s good for the consumers.”

The Senate bill would allow mobile betting and brick-and-mortar locations at tribal casinos and the state’s two racetracks, which would pay a licensing fee to the state. Tribal nations would control mobile licensing and issue sub-licenses to other online gaming vendors, who would be taxed by the state on each transaction outside of tribal lands, though lawmakers said Wednesday that tax rates are still being determined.

Thirty states and Washington, D.C., offer sports gambling, according to data from the American Gaming Association. Another three states have legalized it but aren’t yet operational after a 2018 Supreme Court ruling broke a longtime ban and opened the door for states to legalize betting on sports. All of the states surrounding Minnesota have some legal form of sports betting.

Chamberlain said bill language will be ready within a week, and sports betting statewide would go live in the fall of 2023 if the bill is signed into law by Democratic Gov. Tim Walz this year, he said.

A bill introduced last legislative session by Democratic Sen. Karla Bigham, of Cottage Grove, and Republican Rep. Pat Garofalo, of Farmington, would have allowed on-site sports wagering at tribal casinos for the first year, then mobile betting for those who sign up for an account at a casino. Revenue would have been taxed at 6% for on-site betting and 8% for mobile, with the proceeds going to the state’s general fund.

Stephenson said his bill is coming together after conversations with the state’s professional sports teams, the University of Minnesota, sports gaming companies and all 11 of Minnesota’s tribes. Past efforts were opposed by the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, which represents tribes in the gaming industry.

“Momentum has been building,” he said. “People recognize that it’s a question of when, not if, and that really has created a sense that we should probably get this done sooner rather than later.”

Stephenson’s bill would keep taxes on revenue generated from sports betting much lower than states like New York, which went live last month and taxes revenue at 51%. He said revenue would be taxed just enough to fund the state’s regulatory model to encourage bettors to stop using illicit underground operations and offshore websites.

Stephenson, who chairs the House Commerce Committee, said he expects a hearing for the bill in his committee in March.