Sports gambling bills to be introduced in Minn. Legislature, but don't bet they'll pass

Tom Hauser
Updated: January 15, 2021 06:27 PM
Created: January 15, 2021 05:18 PM

Minnesota DFL Sen. Karla Bigham raised the hopes of Minnesota gamblers with a simple tweet: "Will soon be introducing legislation to legalize sports wagering here in Minnesota! Stay tuned!"

Republican state Rep. Pat Garofalo also plans to re-introduce his own sports gambling bill in the House.

The problem is both Sen. Bigham and Rep. Garofalo are in the minority party in each of their chambers, which can make passing legislation difficult. That's especially true with something as controversial as legalized sports wagering.

At a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce forum earlier this month, all four legislative leaders in the House and Senate were asked to simply say "yes" or "no" to whether they support legalized sports betting.

Sports betting legal in Iowa, stalled in Minnesota

Republican House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said, "I don't think so." DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman, Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and DFL Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent all simply said, "No."

They have not been swayed by the success of sports gambling in neighboring Iowa, where $1.3 million in state tax revenue was raised in the first four months after it was legalized in August 2019. That figure is likely to exceed $5 million in 2021. A small, but not insignificant, part of more than $300 million in state tax revenue Iowa will likely raise this year.

Garofalo says 29 other states have already legalized sports gambling and says, "there's no reason we have to be among the last" again. He says he thinks Minnesota could raise tens of millions of dollars off betting "handles" of up to $4 billion per year.

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