Minnesota’s Tribes Against Legal Sports Betting, Tough Road Ahead

The chairperson of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association wrote letters to legislators last week explaining that the state’s tribes aren’t looking to add sports betting to their gambling offerings. This is potentially catastrophic news for Minnesota and those state leaders looking to legalize sports betting in the near future.

Sports Betting in Minnesota

In May 2018, the Supreme Court overturned the Federal sports gambling ban, which affected most states outside of Nevada, and left it up to each individual state’s discretion whether or not to legalize sports betting.

At the end of Minnesota’s 2018 session, there was a draft bill circulating, but nothing was ever formally filed. Senator Roger Chamberlain (R-Blaine) and other supporters of the draft bill have been working to get a bill ready for the 2019 session.

Chamberlain is chair of the Senate Taxes Committee. According to the Minnesota Post, he was both surprised and disappointed in the position being taken by the tribes.

“We met with them and while they’re not necessarily in alignment they are obviously concerned about losing their economic base, the economic engine. We understand that. We’ve reassured them that we’re not interested in harming that interest or jeopardizing tribal compacts.”

He went on, explaining that he’s hopeful that the tribes will be open to negotiating, and said legal sports gambling would be a benefit to the state, the tribes, and commercial gaming.

One of the biggest issues with tribal casinos offering sports betting is that under Federal law, tribal casinos cannot offer mobile or online gaming unless the betting is done from within the boundaries of tribal land. This is a big difference from the commercial operations, which would be permitted to offer mobile and online betting since it would be part of the legislation.

Tribal Owned Casinos

There are seven tribal-owned casinos in Minnesota and they are forming alliances with other groups that oppose sports betting bills such as Citizens Against Gambling Expansion, which is concerned with how gambling affects families and how it impacts addiction.

Charles Vig, the chairperson of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community of Minnesota, which owns the Little Six and Mystic Lake casinos, has actively protested the legalization of sports betting.

The Minnesota Post reported that Charles Vig wrote to the four legislative leaders as well as Governor Tim Walz and said that the tribes will fight against any legislation looking to expand gaming in the state to include sports gambling.

Vig stated that the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association strongly opposes any gambling off reservations, which includes any and all legislation pertaining to sports betting. He also cautioned the state to move slowly on sports betting legislation:

“While there is a desire by some to consider this matter during the present session, it seems that the public interest would be best served first by careful study of sports betting’s implications in this state.”

Vig eloquently expressed that Minnesota should examine the experiences of other states that have recently legalized sports betting. Additionally, he stated that the legislature should consult those large stakeholders directly connected to gambling and sports betting. The letter is to be the only statement from the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association.

While the tribes don’t have any veto power over any non-tribal gambling issues, they do have influence over legislators like Governor Walz and the House majority. Federal law says that states have to bargain “in good faith” to allow the tribes to offer the same kinds of gaming that are legal at commercial establishments.

Minnesota appears to be in the same boat as other states like California and Florida where tribes have a monopoly over legal gambling and casinos. This is going to be a very tense and sensitive negotiation process between the state and tribes.

For Minnesota to truly enjoy the millions of dollars generated in tax revenue from sports betting, they will need a unified agreement with all of the tribes who own casinos within the state.

Rick Rockwell

As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site.

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