Sports betting still in play, move made to help horse tracks

Sports betting still in play, move made to help horse tracks

Sports betting still in play, move made to help horse tracks

With less than three weeks left in the Minnesota legislative session, the chances of a sports betting bill probably remain about 50-50, but bills continue moving through the House and Senate.

“Minnesotans demand legalized sports wagering and in many cases, they’re already accessing sports wagering,” Senator Matt Klein, DFL-Mendota Heights, said as he presented his sports betting bill to the Senate’s State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday. “They don’t feel it’s the role of the government to stand in their way.”

Polls show a majority of Minnesotans favor legal sports wager since the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck down a federal law banning sports betting in most states.

However, the issue of whether to give Minnesota Native American tribes exclusive rights to in-person and mobile betting has been an obstacle.

“Tribal gaming in the state of Minnesota has restored financial independence, power and basic services to our 11 tribes which were devastated over the past three centuries,” Klein told the committee. “Protecting that exclusive right to gambling as it expands into new areas is essential to continuing that work.”

Klein’s bill would give exclusive rights to in-person and mobile sports betting to Native American tribes. Betting would be legal on pro, college, international and amateur sports events for people over 21.

Klein successfully amended his bill to include an economic development fund to help the state’s two horse tracks. It would start with $20 million and add up to $3 million per year annually from state tax revenue from sports betting. 

Leaders of the state’s two horse tracks say it would be nearly enough to offset their revenue losses if they’re shut out of sports betting.

“The financial compensation from the current legislation is too limited to be effective,” testified Tracie Wilson, Chief Financial Officer of Running Aces.

Randy Sampson, CEO of Canterbury Park, says sports betting would take away a lot of wagers that now go to horse racing.

“We believe that sports wagering will continue to increase over time as will the negative impact on horse racing,” Sampson told lawmakers.

No vote was taken on the Senate bill in committee Wednesday. After the Senate State and Local Government Committee passes the bill next week, it has two more committee stops before it gets to the Senate floor. 

The session ends no later than May 22.