Just prior to the start of the weekend, Minnesota took a step in the right direction as the Senate tax committee voted 5-2 to send a sports gambling bill to the state government committee. The bill, SF-1984, would legalize sports betting at tribal casinos in the state, as well as at the two horse-racing tracks. Furthermore, it would also allow online betting through mobile devices and personal computers.
SF-1984 was created by Senate Tax Committee Chairman Roger Chamberlain, but sponsored by a cross-party group of senators. The bill was crafted to create the Minnesota Sports Wagering Commission, which will both award licenses and regulate sports betting. Bettors must be over the age of 18. They will be permitted to place wagers on professional and collegiate games. Wagering on virtual events is forbidden under SF-1984.
Operators will be taxed at 6.75 percent of their wagering revenue. At this point, no one is sure how much tax revenue the state could collect, but early estimations indicate that people in Minnesota could bet between $2 billion and $3 billion each year.
SF-1984 also allows for operators to make third-party agreements with companies who offer sportsbook services. These will permit operators to offer sportsbooks on tribal land and at racetracks rather than just online.
If passed, the bill would allow for sports betting at Minnesota’s two horse-racing tracks, at its 21 tribal casinos, or online using apps linked to the participating casino or track. If this bill is approved, it will become effective starting September 1, 2020.
At the recent hearing, Chamberlain arranged to have no one testify in support of the bill; instead, he wanted to leave the focus on the tax implications of his legislation. The next hearing could be host to a broader discussion that would cover all the issues. At the hearing, Chamberlain testified about sports betting:
“People do make a very good living off of this, and they also have a lot of fun. We’re just trying to create a legal structure on that to … legalize it, regulate it, make it safe and accessible to people.”
There are 11 federally recognized tribes in Minnesota, and none of them support SF-1984, mostly because they have been opposed to the expansion of off-reservation gambling for more than 20 years. John McCarthy, who is the executive director for the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, said that allowing online gaming using mobile devices “would be the largest expansion of gambling in Minnesota in more than a quarter century,” and would probably progress to more legal Internet gaming.
Citizens Against Gambling Expansion are also opposed to sports gambling, and say that any gains Minnesota would see would be overruled by social costs like crime, divorces, problem gambling, bankruptcies, and social service costs for affected families.
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