With less than two weeks left before the Minnesota legislature adjourns its 2023 session, supporters of sports betting are running out of time to garner enough support from the state’s two racetracks and skeptical senators to get a bill through both chambers and onto the governor’s desk.
There is also the pivotal issue of how to satisfy those groups while ensuring the state’s 11 Native American tribes maintain exclusivity of retail and mobile sports betting in the state.
After being approved on Wednesday (May 10) by the Senate State and Local Government Committee, Senate Bill 1949 is scheduled for another committee hearing today (May 11), this time in the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. If approved, the measure would be sent to the Taxes Committee before the Senate floor.
Senator Mark Klein, a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), amended his bill to set aside a portion of sports-betting tax revenues for the racetracks, but the industry and Senate Republicans want more added to the bill to support the racing industry.
“I think this is good for Minnesota and I think we are ready for it,” Republican Senator John Jasinski said. “My concern is the tracks and the investment we have in [them]. I know they are not happy with this. They are going to have issues down the road and that is my concern.”
Jasinski said during Wednesday's hearing that he wanted to “see more money go to Minnesota and not give exclusivity to the tribes.”
“That’s what I hear [from] my district,” Jasinski said. “People are concerned with all of the gambling going to the tribes and they don’t need full control of everything. I think there is something Minnesota can benefit from as well.”
Andy Platto, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA), did not comment on Jasinski’s remarks directly but said that tribes will either get exclusivity for sports betting or the politically influential MIGA will oppose the bill.
When asked by VIXIO GamblingCompliance how lawmakers in both chambers can get sports betting over the finish line before they adjourn on May 22, Platto said, MIGA was “working on it.”
An earlier effort to pass sports-betting legislation last year came up short after the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill granting tribal exclusivity over sports betting, but the Republican-controlled Senate amended the bill to include the racetracks, assuring that the bill would not be approved when sent back to the House.
Republican Senator Andrew Lang voted for SB 1949 as it was advanced out of the Senate committee Wednesday on an 8-5 vote.
However, Lang urged Klein, the bill's sponsor, “to come to some sort of agreement so we can all support this on the floor.”
Klein assured Lang that negotiations were continuing.
“I’m not ever going to negotiate or put into play tribal exclusivity over licenses,” Klein said. “But there are ways that we can make sure that the tracks feel like they will be sustainable going forward.”
The DFL has a 34-33 advantage in the Senate, but the bill would need bipartisan support to pass because some DFL members oppose any expansion of gambling.
Under Klein’s legislation, sports betting would be taxed at 10 percent, with 30 percent of that going to an economic development fund for racetracks capped at $20m. After the initial deposit, the two tracks would split $3m a year.
The bill would allow 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 said the state expected to receive $30m annually.