Minnesota lawmakers made it clear Thursday that the state’s horse racetracks will not get Minnesota sports betting licenses. However, lawmakers are seeking a compromise that will allow racetracks to benefit from the expansion of gaming.
Both the House and Senate held hearings on sports betting legislation Thursday. In the Senate, Sen. Matt Klein explained that one of the main reasons he introduced SF 1949 was historical justice in regard to the state’s Indian tribes.
“Protecting that exclusive right to gaming as it expands into new areas is essential to continuing that work in the state of Minnesota. Members, I believe we know that this bill is a work in progress, but one principle which is not open for amendment or discussion is tribal exclusivity over these wagering licenses.”
The Senate support for tribal exclusivity over sports wagering is a significant departure from last year. Previous bill author Sen. Roger Chamberlain pushed for the state’s two horse racing tracks to get Minnesota sports betting licenses. Chamberlain lost his re-election bid in November.
House is working with tracks on solution
The Minnesota House passed sports betting legislation last year giving exclusivity to tribes.
Rep. Zach Stephenson introduced a similar bill last year giving no consideration to the state’s horse racetracks.
In a House committee Thursday, Stephenson explained why he thinks it’s important that sports betting be a partnership with the tribes. The first is sovereignty and the second has to do with tribal experience with gaming.
“The tribes do gaming at a scale much larger than any other entity in the state, a level of sophistication and a level of regulation beyond anyone else. We heard testimony that the state’s two racetracks take about $10 million in bets and how in the illicit marketplace there’s more than $2 billion worth of illegal sports bets being placed every year. The scale is just way, way, way bigger. And the tribes have a much larger and more robust footprint and capacity to deal with this, which is safer and more responsible.”
Stephenson has tasked Rep. Brad Tabke with finding a solution to get horse racing support for HF 2000. Tabke has the biggest Minnesota racetrack, Canterbury Park, and the biggest Minnesota tribe, the Skakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, in his district.
“We’ve been working on an amendment that we’re making great progress on,” Tabke said. “It’s just not quite ready yet.”
A bill won’t pass without racetrack support
Canterbury Park CEO Randy Sampson seems to have accepted that the track won’t get a sports betting license. His Senate testimony focused on horse racing benefiting from this expansion of gaming. However, Tracie Wilson of Running Aces still asked the committee for equal treatment.
Many Senators in the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee did speak up for the tracks. Sens. Zach Duckworth, Gary Dahms and Jeff Howe all said they wouldn’t support a bill without involving the tracks.
Klein said his plan is to have a solution involving the tracks when the bill goes to the State and Local Government Committee.
“This bill will not move forward and cannot move forward without the support of the parties that have presented today,” Klein said.
Minnesota sports betting committee changes
Several changes to the Minnesota sports betting bills were made in the House and Senate committees.
Klein offered five changes that were adopted by the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee:
- Inform person excluded from sports wagering by another party’s position of the exclusion.
- Eliminated provision for video camera monitoring of a person placing a wager.
- Eliminated the three-hour delay between deposit of funds and use of funds for wagering.
- Changed the bill so promotional credits will be taxed.
- Excluded proposition bets on college athletes.
Stephenson made one small change in the House Judiciary, Finance and Civil Law Committee.
He added language requiring operators to share aggregated sports wagering data with the University of Minnesota for conducting research to ensure the integrity of sports betting and improve problem gambling services. He said it was a recommendation of Susan Tucker, executive director of the Minnesota Alliance on Problem Gaming.