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Minnesota Sports Betting Bill Cleared Second House Committee

Minnesota is firmly on the way to legalizing sports betting as House File 778 passed through the House Finance Committee on Tuesday and is now heading to the Judiciary Committee. The bill already made its way through the Commerce Committee last week.

Sports Betting for All Native Tribes

Presented to the House Finance Committee in a virtual hearing, House File 778 seeks to allow in-person sports betting at Native American casinos and mobile wagering through sportsbooks operating in partnership with the tribes.

“People just use shady websites, digital workarounds and other means to place bets. What this bill is about is creating a legal marketplace that will displace that black market and in doing so provide consumer protection.”

Rep. Zach Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids

The bill’s author, Rep. Zach Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, also told the committee he would amend the minimum legal age for sports betting from 18 to 21. Currently, Minnesota casinos allow anyone 18 or older to gamble.

House File 778 provides for two master sports betting licenses held by organizations comprising of two or more Indian tribes. One of the master licenses will go to an organization of the tribes north of Interstate I-94 and the other will be allocated to those tribes south of the Interstate. Both master licenses will be valid for 20 years.

The master license holders will then be able to enter into partnerships with sports betting operators provided that the operators are owned by the tribes: north of I-94, the master license holder can partner with up to seven operators, while the master license holder south of I-94 will be allowed to partner with up to four.

The bill provides for each of the state’s tribes to operate sports betting as there are exactly seven and four tribes north and south of Interstate I-94, respectively. Each of the operators should apply for their own sports betting license to commence operations.

Tribal Approval Will Be Critical

Critical to the further advance of the bill was the tentative approval received from the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association as Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz stated he would only sign a bill that has tribal approval.

“In concept, House File 778 does recognize that tribes as the state’s gaming experts are best positioned to operate Minnesota sports betting market both in retail and mobile environments.”

Andy Platto, Executive Director, Minnesota Indian Gaming Association

It is only the House bill that gives so much authority to the tribes as the author of the Senate bill is also seeking sports betting authorization for the state’s two horse racing tracks.

The virtual hearing of House File 778 did not go without opposition, though. Anne Krisnik of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition was pleased to hear about the legal age amendment but also insisted sports betting be limited to in-person only, while Jake Grassel of Citizens Against Gambling Expansion directly linked sports betting with higher rates of compulsive gambling problems.

According to the findings from various studies he cited, adults wagering on mobile devices face an 18% higher rate of problem gambling as compared to those gambling in casinos.

A significant portion of the revenue generated from sports betting would go to compulsive gambling treatment programs according to the provisions of the bill.