January 18, 2021 Sports Betting, Casino, Online, Land-Based

Minnesota sports betting efforts face long odds

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Two Minnesota state lawmakers from opposite sides of the aisle have proposed sports betting bills for the 2021 legislative session.

Democratic Sen. Karla Bigham and Republican Rep. Pat Garofalo each supports sports wagering despite long obstacles to legalize the activity. 

Minnesota lawmakers have only held one previous hearing on sports betting and that debate did not produce a vote. Furthermore, state congressional and senate leaders recently expressed concern or straight opposition to sports betting legalization. 

Nevertheless, Sen. Bigham is sponsoring a bill that would offer sports betting licenses to the state’s tribal casinos and two race tracks. The legislation is meant to appease Minnesota’s tribes, which overwhelmingly oppose the prospect of commercial operators running sports betting in the state. 

Rep. Garofalo has introduced sports betting bills in previous years and plans to draft similar legislation this year. His bill would grant tribes sole operation of sports betting and would initially prohibit mobile wagering.

Even if sports betting legislation received approval from state tribal leaders, such bills would face difficulty in the Capitol. Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman are both on the record as opposed to any efforts. 

Sen. Bigham and Rep. Garofalo are each members of the minority party in their respective chambers, adding another hurdle to their efforts. 

Other lawmakers could be persuaded by the success of neighboring Iowa’s sports betting market. The Hawkeye State surpassed $100m in sports wagering handle last month. 

Unlike Iowa, Minnesota is home to professional sports teams in each of America’s top four leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL). The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers also compete at the top level of college athletics. 

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