In Minnesota Sports Betting Debate, Lawmakers Discuss Problem Gambling

In Minnesota Sports Betting Debate, Lawmakers Discuss Problem Gambling
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

A legislative committee heard a bill that would legalize Minnesota sports betting, leading to an extensive discussion about problem gambling services – and that was by design.

House File 2000 is a bill filed last year by state Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids. Initially filed last year, HF 2000 is the companion bill to Senate File 1949, which was ultimately stalled in the Minnesota Senate last year. In 2023, neither the state’s tribal gaming nations nor the state’s racetracks could reach an agreement on how to move forward with legalizing sports betting.

The first action HF 2000 received in this year’s session took place Thursday before the House Human Services Finance Committee. As Stephenson explained to the committee members, it was being heard there for a “very narrow” but critical piece of the legislation. Under the bill, half of the proceeds the state received from the 10% tax on operator revenues, after funds have been set aside to administer and regulate sports betting, would go toward problem gambling awareness and treatment.

Stephenson told his colleagues that tackling problem gambling behaviors, such as compulsive gambling, needs to be addressed.

“I don’t want anyone to think that just because I’m promoting legal sports betting that I think that problem gaming isn’t a problem,” he said. “I think it is a problem. I think that the way to deal with it is by addressing it honestly and devoting significant resources to it, which is what this bill does.”

The committee passed the bill, which now advances to the State and Local Government Finance and Policy Committee. That committee has not yet scheduled a hearing for HF 2000.

No Movement Yet for Minnesota Sportsbooks

The discussion pertaining to Minnesota sports betting is the same now as it was last May. Until the tracks and tribes can reach an agreement on who can offer sports betting, it’s unlikely any bill will advance.

The state’s tribal gaming nations are pushing for exclusivity, which would include rights for brick-and-mortar sportsbooks and online Minnesota sports betting apps. They would get that as HF 2000 and SF 1949 are currently written.

“Gaming revenues produce the essential tax base tribes rely on to fund basic and essential government services for thousands of tribal members,” Minnesota Indian Gaming Association Executive Director Andy Platto wrote in a letter last week supporting HF 2000. “Any time the state changes the gaming landscape, tribes must carefully consider whether such proposals strengthen or, in fact, threaten tribal sovereignty and self-determination.”

Meanwhile, the state’s two racetracks have called for inclusion, citing concerns sports betting might have on their product and the interest in wagering on horse racing. A $20 million fund was proposed last year that would have set aside Minnesota sports betting tax revenue for the tracks, but track representatives felt the $3 million annual cap once the fund hit $20 million was too low.

The Senate remains the key chamber for any sports betting bill to pass. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor party holds majorities in both legislative chambers, but the DFL’s majority is only 34-33, and not all of its members support sports betting. That means any bill passing the Senate would need Republican support. However, GOP members want to see the tracks involved, while Democrats back the tribes.

Lawmakers and stakeholders have until May 20 to reach an agreement. That’s when the 2024 legislative session is scheduled to end.

Track the legal process and find the best Minnesota sportsbook promo codes from prospective operators here at



Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.