Minnesota House of Representatives Votes to Approve Sports Betting Bill, Still Far from Agreement with Senate
The Minnesota House of Representatives voted to legalize sports betting at retail and online establishments on Thursday. The vote was bipartisan and was 70-57 in favor of the bill. Representative Zack Stephenson, the bill’s chief sponsor, said, “this is an idea whose time has come,” Minnesotans can look forward to a future with legal sports betting in the state.
House and Senate Still Far Apart
While the optimism surrounding sports betting should be high in Minnesota, there’s still more work to be done as the House and Senate are not in agreement on the structure of legalization in the state. Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday that sports betting “is still a work in progress.”
The most significant point of contention between the House and Senate revolves around the use of tax revenue. The House bill proposes to direct tax revenue to regulation, problem gambling initiatives, and youth sports, among other things. The Senate proposal would direct tax revenue into the state’s general fund while setting aside some revenue for problem gambling initiatives.
The Senate has also insisted on including betting at the state’s racetracks as part of the legislation, and that was not a part of the House bill. Miller said recently that a sports betting legalization plan must include racetracks for the Senate to approve it. The legislative session ends May 23, so the two branches are running out of time to come to an agreement.
Pushback Leads to Amendments
Minnesota has experienced significant pushback from groups concerned about the negative societal impacts of legal sports betting. Faith leaders with the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition expressed their concerns regarding addiction and the effects of problem gambling on impoverished people in a letter to Governor Tim Walz and legislators in March.
The letter from the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition also called for changes to existing laws, including increasing the state’s legal gambling age from 18 to 21 years old. “We strongly oppose any consideration of gambling expansion and call upon you to refrain from any discussion of additional gambling until our state addresses the needs under our current laws,” the letter elaborated.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives approved bill amendments that raised the number of hours of free counseling that the state will provide to impulsive gamblers and their families. In addition, the House approved limits on advertisements for mobile sports betting and put safeguards in place, including the prohibition of most push notifications from smartphone betting apps.
Missing out on Revenue
The Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on sports betting in 2018, and since it has become legal in 30 states, including all of Minnesota’s neighbors. Stephenson described Minnesota’s black market for sports betting as “robust,” and the state is missing out on significant revenue. The American Gaming Association reported a record-high nationwide commercial sports betting handle of over $57 billion in 2021.
Stephenson added that “what this bill is about is creating a legal marketplace that will displace that black market, and in doing so provide consumer protection, ensure the integrity of the game, and limit money laundering and other illicit activity.”