Minnesota legislators renew bipartisan sports betting push

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By Emma Nelson
Star Tribune
Minnesota legislators renew bipartisan sports betting push

Posted: February 16, 2022
Read this story on The Star Tribune’s website

Senator Julia Coleman at the announcement of a sports betting bill

Minnesotans could bet on sporting events online, at casinos and horse racing tracks under a new proposal that would bring the state in line with its neighbors.

A bipartisan state Senate proposal would allow in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and racetracks, and online gaming through vendors that the tribes oversee. If signed into law, it could go into effect in fall 2023, marking one of the largest expansions of for-profit gambling in state history.

“This is something that people in Minnesota want to see happen — that they’re, quite frankly, traveling across the border to make happen,” said Sen. Julia Coleman, R-Waconia. “This is a win-win scenario for the people of Minnesota and for the state of Minnesota.”

Pressure is building on Minnesota as legalization spreads across the country. But there is also opposition grounded in concerns including addiction, religious views and consumer protection, said Jake Grassel of Citizens Against Gambling Expansion (CAGE). A key concern is the proliferation of online gambling, which allows users to place bets anytime, anywhere.

“We fully anticipate, as in years past, that it will have vigorous opposition,” Grassel said.

Federal law largely prohibited commercial sports betting until 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the ban unconstitutional. Sports betting is now legal in 33 states and Washington, D.C.

It’s a lucrative market: Last year, Americans set a commercial sports betting record of more than $57 billion, according to the American Gaming Association (AGA), an industry advocacy group. States get some of that money through taxes.

Details of the Senate proposal are still being finalized, but the plan would allow the state to tax revenue from online gaming. Revenue would flow into the state’s general fund, although where it would go from there has yet to be determined. A percentage of either licensing fees or tax revenue would go toward Gamblers Anonymous.

“There’s a lot of places people want this money to go,” said Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, who sponsored a sports betting bill last session. “I’ve been saying from the first day, this is not a big cash cow — this is about consumers and customers and having some fun.”