Sports betting in Minnesota is an interesting proposition. While some states that have yet to pass legislation are bogged down in policy disagreements, partisan disagreements, tribal conflicts, and more, that’s not really the problem in Minnesota ... anymore. Support appears to be both bipartisan and tribal for Minnesota sports betting. It’s just slow.
After a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowed for state-by-state sport betting in 2018, it took around two years for Minnesota legislators to get a bill into the 2020 session. At that time, Minnesota tribes were not in favor of legalizing sports betting and the bill stalled. Then COVID-19 hit, and everything stalled. More bills were introduced in 2021 but none of them got anywhere.
In early 2022, mobile sports betting progress seemed to be gaining momentum, and then the Minnesota Catholic Conference announced it was going to make stopping mobile sports betting a top priority. That move didn’t get anywhere either.
Four days later, on Jan. 25, 2022, following a path other states have used, in which tribes make deals with governors either to see them survive or be overturned, the St. Croix Chippewa Tribe of Wisconsin, in an arrangement with Gov. Tony Evers, agreed to allow Turtle Lake Casino, about 75 miles northeast of Minneapolis, to open a sportsbook. The Book at Turtle Lake has been announced and has a website, but is not yet taking sports bets.
Legislature Gets Ball Rolling
In February, Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman said Rep. Zack Stephenson, a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, would be the point man on the sports betting bill and bring it home in 2022. On Feb. 16, Republican Sen. Roger Chamberlain said he would file his own sports betting bill in the Minnesota Senate. Democratic Sen. Karla Bingham told CBS Minnesota at the end of February that she believed Chamberlain’s bill would have bipartisan support.
On March 7, Stephenson announced HB 778, his House bill to legalize retail and mobile sports betting in Minnesota. The next day Stephenson’s bill sailed through the House Commerce Committee, 14-4 in favor. The following week it squeaked through the Finance and Elections Committee 7-5, with a change raising the minimum age of would-be wagerers from 18 to 21. On March 24, the House Bill easily passed the Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee.
It still has more committees to go through before full House approval. At some point down the road, the House bill and the Senate bill will have to become one to gain approval, but passage is expected this year.
Mobile & Retail Sports Betting
There’s nothing even close to written in stone yet, but any bill would likely legalize mobile sports and in-person sports betting at the state’s two horse racing tracks and 18 tribal casinos.
While the tribes have long been against mobile sports betting, fearing it would allow gamblers to stay home, in order to garner tribal support, any bill would likely allow tribes to function as sub-licensees to other mobile gaming operators.
Presently, Minnesotans who want to bet on sports have other options — in neighboring states Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa, plus Canada.