A push to legalize sports betting in Minnesota is returning to the state Legislature next year.
Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, plans to lead an effort to make sports betting legal in Minnesota by introducing a bill next year, he announced at a news conference Thursday.
“Minnesotans deserve the chance to engage in safe and legal sports betting right here in Minnesota,” Stephenson said, who chairs the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee, which has jurisdiction over gambling policy. “That is why I am announcing I will lead an effort to legalize sports betting during the next regular session of the Legislature.”
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on state authorization of sports betting in 2018. And in the years since, 32 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized online or retail sports betting, including North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Illinois.
But Minnesota has failed to capitalize on the opportunity, which proponents say could bring in millions of dollars in new tax revenue every year. Plus, Minnesotans already bet on sports by driving to Iowa or placing bets online.
“I have heard from Minnesotans across the state who are interested in having the same opportunities that our neighbors have,” Stephenson said. “This will be the most significant change to Minnesota’s gaming laws in many years."
Previous efforts to make sports wagering legal here have gone nowhere at the capital. According to Twin Cities Business, there have been several bills introduced at the Minnesota Legislature to legalize sports betting but only one has ever gotten a hearing — the bill's sponsor was the chair of that committee — and none have gotten a vote.
Part of the reason efforts to legalize sports betting have failed is because tribal nations have been vocally against it, with the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) telling the Star Tribune last month that it "continues to oppose the expansion of off-reservation gambling, including the legalization of sports betting."
In a statement to Bring Me The News on Thursday, MIGA Executive Director Andy Platto said:
"The tribal governments making up MIGA have been examining the various ways sports betting has been implemented across the country and its impacts on tribal communities. As gaming experts, tribes stand ready to share this expertise with lawmakers considering the future of sports betting in Minnesota."
Stephenson said sports betting is a "complex" issue and there are "countless different ways" sports betting could be structured.
"We have a lot of work ahead of us. We will need to work carefully with those who have the expertise necessary to ensure this is done right, in particular our sovereign tribal nations, but also our professional sports teams, experts in problem gaming and many others," Stephenson said.
Stephenson does not have a bill drafted and didn't get into specifics about what the bill could entail, only saying he wants to develop a bill specific to Minnesota.
Before the start of the 2022 legislative session on Jan. 31, Stephenson said he plans to consult on a government-to-government basis with tribal leaders, as well as other legislators, stakeholders, and community members to develop the proposed legislation, which he hopes to introduce "early" in the session.
Stephenson said there is a lot of support for sports betting in both parties and both chambers, and he thinks there is a good chance of getting it done this year.
Last month, he said he plans to work on proposals to update the state's liquor laws with a substantive bill — an effort that is also expected to face an uphill battle at the capital (as it always does).