Legislators opened this year’s session confident that 2023 was the year Minnesota would legalize online sports gambling.
Representative Zack Stephenson (D, District 35A) introduced a sports betting bill, HF 2000, in March that would have given full control of both mobile and retail Minnesota sports betting to the local tribes.
“I hope and expect that we’ll pass a sports betting bill this year,” Rep. Stephenson told Gaming Today at the time. “Minnesotans deserve to be able to wager on sports in a safe and legal marketplace, just as people in over 30 states are able to do. Legalization will also allow us to address the very real issue of problem gaming in a serious way.”
However, as the session progressed lobbyists for the state’s racetracks opposed Rep. Stephenson’s bill, stating that it would have a negative impact on the local horse racing industry. Although the Minnesota House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee voted in favor of the legislation, the bill failed to garner enough support to go forward with a vote for Minnesota mobile sports gaming in the House.
Minnesota Democrats largely favor the tribes running any new sports betting operations, while Republicans have pushed to include sports teams and horse racing tracks. In an attempt to appease both sides, Senator Matt Klein (D, District 53) proposed a bill that would tax sports gambling at 10%, with 30% of that going to an economic development fund for the tracks capped at $20 million. After that initial $30 million infusion the two tracks would split $3 million annually.
Sen. Klein’s proposed compromise likely came too late. House Speaker Melissa Hortman said legislation legalizing sports gambling is unlikely to make it to the floor for a vote this session.
“I think we are probably out of time,” Hortman said during a Thursday afternoon news conference. “In the House, it has two or three more committees. We are not going to be able to take people away from the floor to have that move through the committees that it would need to.”
The Minnesota legislature is set to adjourn by midnight May 22. Lawmakers have several massive bills they need to approve before then to finalize a nearly $72 billion two-year budget. However, Speaker Hortman did suggest that online sports gambling is likely to come up again when the legislature returns in February 2024.