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Minnesota Sports Betting Bill in Jeopardy Over HHR Ban

Written by: Michael Savio
Published April 11, 2024
6 min read
Minnesota Sports Betting Bill in Jeopardy Over HHR Ban

Minnesotans may need to wait another year before legal sports betting becomes a reality. 

Problem gambling concerns were the biggest hurdle for the 2024 effort to sports betting in Minnesota, but another has emerged. After initially supporting the bill, the state’s horse tracks have now become strong opponents of it. Runnings Aces and Canterbury Park have led the opposition and are using their political sway to prevent the current bill from becoming law.

The reason for the fallout between bill sponsor Rep. Zack Stephenson and the tracks is a ban on Historical Horse Racing (HHR). The state's major tracks offer the controversial slot machine-style game, providing a key source of revenue. The game involves players using a machine to bet on a randomly selected past race. 

Rep. Stephenson added the ban on HHR games due to their similarity to slot-style games. Since the game revolves more around luck than strategy, he believes it should be qualified as gambling. To offset lost revenue from the new racing game, the tracks would get a small cut of the state’s sports betting revenue. Unfortunately, the two sides are very far apart on how much that should be. The state proposed splitting between Running Aces and Canterbury Park $3 million per year, but the tracks are pushing for at least $5 million each.

"Over half of our revenue would be impacted by this bill and maybe more," Running Aces CFO Tracie Wilson said. "If we are allowed to operate this new pari-mutuel product, we would not need anything under the sports betting bill.

Negotiations Unlikely to Yield Results

The large gap between the two sides over revenue distribution is one obstacle to legalized sports betting in the US. However, Rep. Stephenson doesn’t appear willing to budge. Instead, he has begun pushing the state to review the current gambling regulations that the tracks offer.

The move is an aggressive attack against the tracks, attempting to strip them of HHR and other revenue regardless of whether the bill passes or fails. The strong-arm tactic is unlikely to land well with the tracks, which has the power to keep any sports betting bill from being passed.

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Michael Savio

477 Articles

Michael is an avid sports fan and a veteran bettor from Milwaukee. He learned the trade from his grandfather in Las Vegas as a kid and has turned that into a successful career. He cheers for all Wisconsin pro teams along with his Alma Mater Arizona State. He specializes in baseball betting, but has experience in football, basketball, and hockey as well. When he isn’t pouring over stats, he’s spending time with his two young children.

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