A bill to legalize Minnesota sports betting did not clear a state Senate committee on Wednesday, but lawmakers did approve a couple of key changes to the bill. They may come back to the legislation early next week.
SF 1949, sponsored by Sen. Matt Klein (DFL-Mendota Heights), would allow tribal nations that offer Class III gaming in the state to serve as sports betting operators that can partner with an online platform provider. Under the bill, anyone 21 or older could register for an account in the state.
Klein told the Senate State and Local Government and Veterans Committee that it’s “a matter of historical justice” to grant tribal gaming operators the right to control sports betting.
“Tribal gaming in the state of Minnesota has restored financial independence, power, and basic services to our 11 tribes, which were devastated over the past three centuries,” Klein said. “Protecting that exclusive right to gaming as it expands into new areas is essential to continuing that work.”
Minnesota Racetracks Not Happy
Minnesota’s two racetracks, however, oppose the bill in its current format, with their executives telling lawmakers that giving tribes exclusive rights will significantly harm their operations, which generates a $500 million economic impact to the state.
Tracie Wilson, the CFO for Running Aces Casino, Hotel & Racetrack, pointed to a survey from last year that found 57% of Minnesota residents wanted both the tracks and the tribal operators to have sports betting rights. Just 7% supported tribal exclusivity.
She added that a provision in a sports betting bill last year would have allowed the tracks and tribal casinos to offer roulette and craps.
Klein did introduce an amendment Wednesday that the committee approved to set aside 30% of the state tax revenue generated from sports betting into an economic development account the Minnesota Racing Commission would manage.
However, Canterbury Park CEO Randy Sampson testified that the fund would not cover both tracks’ needs, especially since it sets a $3 million annual contribution cap after the fund reaches $20 million.
“We believe this amendment provides a short-term solution to a long-term concern and problem, and it will require that we need to continue this debate in the future legislative sessions to address what we see as the impending funding cliff when the when the cap takes effect,” Sampson said. “Also, we believe it’s in the best interest of the state for all stakeholders to work together to make sports betting successful. Putting a cap on the revenues to the horse racing industry does not provide the incentive needed for a collaborative approach.”
MinnesotaBets.com is proactively covering the expected top Minnesota sportsbook apps ahead of the eventual launch.
Chair Pledges to Return to Bill
While the committee heard testimony on Wednesday, it ran out of time for its members to ask questions to the various stakeholders.
Committee Chair Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) said she hoped the panel could come back to the bill early next week for questions and a possible vote.
Lawmakers, though, did pass four amendments to the bill. Besides the racing economic development fund, the other amendments call for a universal start date for operators and updated language regarding advertising restrictions and requirements, such as ensuring all advertising materials feature the 1-800-GAMBLER helpline. Another change does away with a ban on mobile push notifications and inserts a requirement for users to opt-in to receive those messages.
“These add common-sense protections for Minnesotans while also ensuring that the new industry will be capable of attracting wagerers away from the illicit market and into this more structured legal market,” Klein said.
The Minnesota State Legislature’s 2023 session is set to end later this month.
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