Legislators began this year’s sessions in Minnesota and Missouri confident they had enough support to pass bills legalizing retail and mobile sports betting, but long-standing objections by powerful interest groups and politicians have delayed any action until at least next year.
In Minnesota, support from tribal casino operators for two bills sponsored by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) was not enough for legislation to advance out of either the House of Representatives or Senate.
Ultimately, the DFL did not have enough support to pass Senate Bill 1949 on their own, forcing Democrats to seek Republican support.
After passing six committees, Senator Matt Klein’s SB 1949 was referred for the final time on May 12 to the Senate Finance Committee where it was tabled for the remainder of the 2023 session. House File 2000, authored by DFL Representative Zack Stephenson, stalled in the House State and Local Government Finance and Policy Committee in March.
The Minnesota legislature adjourned its 2023 session on Monday (May 22).
To gain the backing of Minnesota's racetracks and the necessary Republican support, Klein amended his bill with less than two weeks to go in the session to direct up to $20m in sports-betting taxes to an economic development fund operated by the Minnesota Racing Commission, as well as legalizing advance deposit wagering (ADW) on horse races.
Under Klein’s legislation, sports betting would have been taxed at 10 percent. The bill allowed each of the state’s 11 tribes to get one license to partner with a mobile sports-betting operator, such as FanDuel or BetMGM.
Klein expected the state to receive $30m annually.
The make-up of the state Senate is 34-33, with the DFL controlling the chamber with a one-vote majority. With DFL senators John Marty and Scott Dibble opposed to legalized sports betting, Klein was unable to bridge the differences between lawmakers, the state’s 11 tribes, and two racetracks.
“Over the past week, individual legislators worked to find a plan that would be successful for racetracks, tribal casinos, and sports teams,” Jeff Maday, a spokesman for Canterbury Park racetrack, told VIXIO GamblingCompliance on Monday.
“A plan did not emerge that was satisfactory to each of these groups,” Maday said. “Had there been, Canterbury Park would have supported it. We ask that legislative leaders bring all parties to the table together, so we can resolve this issue in a way that benefits all of us as well as the citizens of Minnesota.”
Andy Platto, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA), has said the association's nine members would support sports betting only if it maintained tribal exclusivity over the new form of gambling. The MIGA also did not oppose Klein’s proposal to subsidize the tracks.
Platto was unavailable for comment on Monday.
Even if the legislature decided to allow the racetracks to offer retail or mobile wagering, Governor Tim Walz has said he would not sign the legislation.
Marty, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said he was opposed to expanding gambling out of concern of the potential negative effects on low-income residents and communities of color. Marty, also a member of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, was able to get the committee to send Klein’s bill to the Senate's finance committee, effectively killing this year’s last effort to legalize sports betting.
Missouri's Senator Hoskins Takes The Blame
While lawmakers came up short once again in Minnesota, Senate leadership in Missouri is placing the blame for not getting a bill through the legislation on one Republican lawmaker.
The session, which ended on May 12, was the fifth straight year that Missouri lawmakers have failed to legalize sports betting.
Senate President Caleb Rowden told reporters after the chamber adjourned for the year that Senator Denny Hoskins was the reason that Missouri did not pass a sports-betting bill.
Hoskins has been able to block sports-betting bills over his support for legalizing video lottery terminals (VLTs) at bars and fraternal establishments, while also eliminating unregulated and untaxed grey-market gaming machines
Current estimates place the number of grey-market games in Missouri at anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000.
Hoskins also supports legalizing sports betting, but has been unable to get enough lawmakers to support legalizing VLTs.
Hoskins admitted that he gets blamed for blocking sports betting, but sports betting is not the only bill he has been blamed for blocking during his career in the Missouri legislature. After eight years in the Senate, Hoskins will be term-limited out in 2024.
Earlier in the session, the House of Representatives passed Republican Representative Dan Houx’s House Bill 556 by a 118-35 vote. Despite the bipartisan support in the House, the bill legalizing retail and mobile sports betting stalled in the Senate as Hoskins was able to filibuster the legislation and prevent it from being brought up for a vote on the Senate floor.
Another sports betting bill, Senate Bill 30, authored by Republican Senator Tony Luetkemeyer, was tabled on May 12, the final day of the 2023 legislative session.