State representatives announce bill to legalize sports betting

The push to legalize sports betting continues in Minnesota.

Monday afternoon, a group of Minnesota lawmakers announced new legislation to legalize sports betting in the state.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, and Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, were scheduled to discuss a bill they chief authored at a press conference. The bill is also co-authored by Reps. John Huot, DFL-Rosemount; Dave Lislegard, DFL-Aurora; and Leon Lillie, DFL-North St. Paul.

The new bipartisan proposal seeks to replace unlawful gaming with a regulated market, the bill’s authors stated. Minnesotans who are 18 and older would be able to participate using both mobile and brick-and-mortar betting options.

“This legislation will bring about the most significant change to Minnesota’s gaming laws in many years,” Stephenson claimed in a statement. “State lawmakers in the Minnesota House have crafted a thoughtful bill based on respectful consultation with sovereign tribal nations, professional sports teams, experts in problem gaming, and many other stakeholders. This is the year we get sports betting done in Minnesota.”

Garofalo added, in a statement, “The current sports gambling black market is indefensible. A majority of states have abandoned the underground market and instead chosen a legalized sports gambling marketplace. It is time for Minnesota to do the same.”

The bill was actually introduced last year but lawmakers have renewed the push to legalize sports betting as neighboring states do so, and momentum seems to be growing in the state.

RELATED: Senators introduce bill to legalize sports betting in Minnesota

Last month, a group of five senators — including Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes — introduced their plan to legalize sports betting in Minnesota. Chamberlain wants horse tracks to also be allowed to have sports betting and says the House proposal doesn’t go far enough.

“I welcome the Democrats to the table, and we’ll work together to write legislation that can get this done, Chamberlain said in a statement. “However, the offer in its current form will not give the consumer a good product. We need to expand the options for consumers to have the best possible experience.”

While past efforts have failed, lawmakers seem hopeful that this year could be the year legislation is passed, as the bill has bipartisan support in both chambers of the Legislature.

The biggest hurdle remained approval from the state’s tribal nations, although the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association said late last year that it’s willing to consider the idea if the right agreement can be struck.

In a new statement released Monday, the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association said:

The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) and its 10 member tribal nations support state efforts to authorize sports wagering both at tribal gaming properties and through online/mobile platforms and believe tribes are best positioned to offer this new market to the state’s consumers. MIGA and its members will be monitoring state legislation and look forward to working with other stakeholders.

The bill’s first hearing takes place Tuesday afternoon in a meeting of the House Commerce Committee.