Minnesota House to vote on legalizing sports betting, but Senate opposed

Minnesota lawmakers remain at odds over sports betting legalization as the House prepared to take up a proposal despite a lack of support in the Senate.

The House bill, authored by Democratic Rep. Zack Stephenson, of Coon Rapids, would put Minnesota’s Native American tribes in control by allowing in-person wagering at tribal casinos and allowing tribes to partner with mobile betting companies like FanDuel and DraftKings. A vote was expected Thursday evening.

Stephenson said he met with the leaders of all 11 of Minnesota’s Ojibwe and Dakota tribes before crafting the bill, in addition to mobile gambling companies, the state’s professional sports teams and the University of Minnesota. Tribal governments have traditionally opposed legalization efforts in the past due to reliance on casino revenues, but the new proposal would allow tribes to keep all profits from in-person betting and 5% of revenue from mobile betting.

The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, which represents 10 of the 11 tribes, signaled support for House proposal. The group did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the anticipated House floor vote.

Despite anticipated bipartisan support in the House, the GOP-controlled Senate is unlikely to act on the legislation and get it to Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s desk. Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, of Winona, told reporters Tuesday that the House sports betting bill doesn’t have the support it needs to pass in the Senate because it only lets tribal casinos in on the action.

A bill introduced by Republican Sen. Roger Chamberlain, of Lino lakes, earlier in the session would allow the state’s two horse racing tracks to administer in-person wagering on sports.

Proponents of sports betting lost a brief, good-natured skirmish on the Senate floor Wednesday when Democratic Sen. Karla Bigham, of Cottage Grove, introduced the proposal as an amendment to the Senate GOP’s main tax bill. Bigham framed it as a way of raising revenue and of breaking the impasse over sports wagering in the Senate, and as a way of sparing Minnesotans from having to go all the way to Iowa to place a legal bet.

Bigham’s amendment was ruled out of order because it wasn’t germane to the underlying tax bill. Chamberlain said he would love to see it enacted, “deeply we really would,” but agreed the amendment was out of order.

“But it’s a nice, wonderful, beautiful thought,” he said.

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