Monday’s statement by the House lead sponsor of legislation to legalize Minnesota sports betting was a sign that he is confident that the state’s Native American tribes won’t resist it and that it will be made law. This would give them control.
Democratic Rep. Zack Stephenson of Coon Rapids said that he has met with the leaders of all 11 Minnesota Ojibwe or Dakota bands in recent months to create a “Minnesota specific model” and that he wouldn’t press ahead now unless they were confident that it would be supported in the end. Tuesday will be the first hearing for the bill in committee.
Stephenson stated at a news conference that Minnesotans would be able “if this bill passes,” to be able visit betting lounges in Minnesota casinos and bet on sports using their mobile phones from anywhere in the state.
The opposition of tribal governments who rely on casinos for a large portion of their revenue has prevented attempts to legalize Minnesota sports betting. The bill, which was introduced by Stephenson and Republican Rep. Pat Garofalo of Farmington would keep most of the proceeds in the hands of tribal governments.
Garofalo stated that the approach will transform Minnesota from a black market of unregulated activities to a regulated marketplace with consumer transparency and consumer protections.
Stephenson stated that the tribes would be allowed to keep all the profits from their casinos and around 5% of total mobile betting amounts. They will be permitted to partner with mobile betting companies like DraftKings, FanDuel and MGM.
The state would receive a 10% share of online gambling profits made by the tribes. Stephenson estimates it to be about $20 million annually, with 40% going towards programs to combat problem gambling, 40% going to youth sports in areas where there is high rates of juvenile crime, and 20% going to regulating the industry to protect consumers.
The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, which represents 10 tribes, issued a statement that supported the bill but withheld approval until all details were finalized.
According to the group, it stated that it and its members support state efforts to allow sports betting at both tribal gaming properties as well as online/mobile platforms. It also said that they will be closely monitoring state legislation and looking forward to working with other stakeholders.
Stephenson stated that the bill would need approval by at least six committees within the House. It must also pass the Senate. The bill received a muted response from Sen. Roger Chamberlain of Lino Lakes, the Senate’s top advocate for legalizing sports gambling.
Chamberlain stated in a statement that he welcomed the Democrats to the table and would work with them to create legislation to accomplish this. “However, in its current form, the offer will not provide the consumer with a quality product. To give consumers the best experience, we need to increase the number of options.
The state’s two horse-racing tracks will not be able to get any of the action, unlike Chamberlain’s bill.
Stephenson stated that he had been working with the state’s colleges and professional sports teams, but that his bill would not allow them to run their own betting operations. He stated that the state’s tribes have the best knowledge on how to regulate gaming, so it makes sense to begin with them.