Published: May 19, 2022

Minnesota plan to legalize sports betting gets a final push

Supporters of legalizing sports gambling are making a final push at the Minnesota Capitol, but two competing proposals contain one huge difference that will make it difficult to reconcile.

Both plans seek to legalize betting on various sports games and activities online and inside casinos owned by the state’s American Indian tribes.

Both plans have bipartisan support — and bipartisan opposition; the politics of state-sanctioned gambling don’t fall neatly along partisan lines, as opposition comes both from some of the most liberal lawmakers and some of most conservative.

But the main sticking point appears to be whether Native American tribes should get exclusive rights to run the betting operations, or whether the state’s two race tracks should be allowed to get in on the action.

Last week, the House approved a bill that would not allow the tracks — Running Aces in Columbus and Canterbury Park in Shakopee — to operate any sports betting operations. The Minnesota Indian Gaming Commission endorsed that plan, and Gov. Tim Walz, whose signature would be required, did as well.

But a plan working its way through the Minnesota Senate would ensure the tracks are included. The tribes opposed that bill. Walz has said he won’t sign any gambling expansion that lacks tribal approval.

On Thursday, a Senate committee approved its plan after it was modified to match much of the House bill. In the words of lead sponsor Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, the two bills are “pretty much the same, except for one major area.”

That area: the tracks remain included in Chamberlain’s plan.

Anything less would be, he said, a “non-starter.”

If there’s any hope for agreement, it will have to come soon. The Legislature is required to finish its work before Monday.

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