On Wednesday, a Minnesota House committee took a small step and proposed a bill that would allow statewide mobile sports betting with tribes, for the most part, in the driving seat. The Chamber of Commerce, Finance and Advanced Public Policy HF 778 by a vote of 14 to 4. Those who voted against the bill were mostly concerned about setting the legal age at 18 and the idea of putting “portable sports betting” in the hands of teenagers.
At the start of the meeting, committee chair Zack Stephenson introduced a “delete everything” amendment, which is essentially a new version of a bill. The amendment was not immediately available online, but according to Stephenson, it would allow retail and digital betting with a “reasonable” tax rate for digital betting, has the support of the state’s 11 Indian tribes, direct a certain percentage of tax revenue to fund youth sports and law enforcement, and direct 40% of tax revenue to problem and responsible gambling programs. It appears that retail bets on tribal lands would not be taxed, but the tribes agreed that digital bets would be.
Stephenson’s full amendment passed easily, but four other amendments failed, all on Stephenson’s recommendation that his colleagues vote against them.
In-person registration suggested
Representative Tim O’Driscoll proposed two amendments, one that would have changed the distribution of sports betting tax money and one that would have offered tax relief to charitable gaming entities. Representative Jordan Rasmusson proposed an amendment that would have required in-person registration and a second that would have raised the legal age in the bill from 18 to 21. None of these proposals was adopted.
MN representative@zackstephensonspeaks to the media about a bipartisan bill to legalize sports betting in Minnesota. This will include a mobile electronic option as well as in person at tribal casinos, all operated by tribal communities. pic.twitter.com/mQIqCH5cXv
— John Croman (@JohnCroman) March 7, 2022
The discussion around the in-person registration requirement was quite limited. Stephenson pointed out that most states no longer need it, and those that did at one point, including neighboring Iowa and neighboring Illinois, have abandoned it.
On the age limit that would allow sports betting at 18, Stephenson said he was not opposed to raising it, but would also like to consider “ideas to give 18 to 21 year olds the ‘access to the legal market and betting controls’.
The vast majority of legal states have set the betting age at 21, although Montana, New Hampshire and Wyoming allow it at 18. New Hampshire and Wyoming also offer statewide digital betting.
Tribal representative says MIGA is on board
Several witnesses testifying at the virtual hearing opposed legalizing sports betting, or as Ryan Hamilton of the Minnesota Catholic Conference called it, “play anytime, anywhere.” But probably the most interesting development is that Andy Patto, the executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, basically came out in favor of the bill, which requires digital operators to partner with tribes. The state’s 11 existing tribes have long been against an expansion of the game, but Stephenson has apparently done his homework, and if the bill survives with tribal exclusivity, Patto says his group will support it.
“The main sponsor…said Monday that it was confident that the state’s Native American tribes would drop their longstanding opposition and let it become law because it would give them control.”
New sports betting bill gives Minnesota tribes controlhttps://t.co/fvSb3hTm81
— Alfonso Straffon 🇨🇷🇺🇸🇲🇽 (@astraffon) March 7, 2022
A representative from a local harness racing track called for the tracks to be included in the bill, but lawmakers had no questions and it is unclear whether they will go along with this option. In California, where a group of operators are trying to bring digital sports betting into the November ballot, several proposals would allow betting at racetracks, and in Illinois, several racetracks are up and running with retail and digital sports betting.
The Minnesota bill is now moving to the House State Government, Finance and Elections Committee.