Renewed Momentum Builds Again for Sports Wagering in Minnesota

  • Sen. Bingham presents new legislation with onsite wagering only planned for first year
  • Resistance from 11 Native American tribes opposed to all online wagering activity
  • Although forces try with renewed enthusiasm, much doubtful & cynical opinion remains

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With larger US states including New York and Texas gaining more attention toward potentially legalizing sports wagering, Minnesota has seemingly flown “under the radar” in advancing plans to investigate legislation and creating a workable plan.

On Tuesday morning Sen. Karla Bigham and Rep. Patrick Garofalo hosted a Zoom meeting to discuss their sponsored legislation on the legalization of sports betting. In their opinion “If Iowa can do it, why not Minnesota?”

Garofolo said revenue is not a primary motivator for legalizing, but he estimates sports gambling could bring in $40 million to $50 million a year to the state. He also added:

Americans like to bet, Americans like sports. You combine them together, it’s a natural activity.

Although Garofolo plans to pursue the legislation in full earnest, he was less than optimistic predicting its success in saying:

There’s just something with the government in the state of Minnesota that acts slower than most other states. I’m not saying we had to be the first state to legalize this, but why do we always have to be the caboose?

Still, it was the most positive sign for sports bettors in Minnesota since Governor Walz indicated two years ago that he supported the concept of legalized sports betting, depending on the details. During that time Walz wanted to see it done through existing tribal gambling entities that already have contracts with the state for legal casino games.

At this juncture, Minnesotans only have the state lottery and casinos as sources for gambling.

Onsite In-person Wagering First

As part of the planned legislation from Sen. Bingham, The proposal would allow casinos and racinos to take in-person bets for the first year and would offer remote (online) gambling via state casinos after one year.

In-person registration would be required for online wagering and players would have to re-load their accounts through Minnesota based casinos.

Brick-and-mortar gaming operators would receive 6% of all on-site betting profit and 8% for all online wagering. The balance of the proceeds would go to the state.

The Current Picture

Any new efforts to move sports wagering forward in Minnesota will be met with similar opposition to roadblocks in the past. Legislators were divided among opinions along with deep concern from the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association.

The tribes that own and manage casino activity across the state have been consistently vocal opponents of legalizing wagering. In a 2019 interview, John McCarthy, executive director of the MIGA, said that “[Gambling] is the only successful economic development tool the tribes have ever had.”

Together, those 11 tribes, which operate 21 casinos and have contributed millions in state campaign donations, are especially concerned about “mobile sports wagering”, which they fear could invite wider internet gambling toward threatening their casinos.

It is unclear whether this move by Sen. Bingham would need a potential referendum vote to pass. Like hurdles in states including Florida and California facing similar obstacles involving Native American compacts and agreements, it appears Minnesota may be further down on the list of US states announcing sports wagering for 2021.

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Larry Gibbs

Expert on Sports Betting Industry

Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.

Email: [email protected]