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Sports betting fails to pass by Minnesota legislative deadline

Bills in the Senate and House would have allowed the state’s tribal casinos to run in-person and mobile sports betting for people 21 and older in Minnesota. But a disagreement over whether to allow two Twin Cities-area horse racing tracks to also host betting ultimately derailed the push.

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A screen shows sports wagering odds.
File photo
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ST. PAUL — A push to legalize sports betting in Minnesota failed to pass in the Legislature before the regular session ended late Sunday night, May 22, despite bipartisan support in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Bills in both chambers would have allowed the state’s tribal casinos to run in-person and mobile sports betting for people 21 and older in Minnesota and set priorities for the modest tax revenues the gambling would generate for the state. But a disagreement over whether to allow two Twin Cities area horse racing tracks to also host betting ultimately derailed the push.

The Senate version of the legal sports betting bill would have allowed Canterbury Park in Shakopee and Running Aces in Columbus to offer sports betting, something the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association opposes. Gov. Tim Walz said he would not sign into law sports betting legislation not supported by the state’s tribal nations.

A Senate committee on May 19 advanced that bill toward a vote of the full Senate, but House Speaker Melissa Hortman at a news conference the next day said the inclusion of horse tracks threw a “monkey wrench” into the process and that she didn’t think the bill could move forward.

The tribal gaming lobby opposed the Senate version of the bill, and while the House was able to pass its version of Sports betting on May 12, the Senate version only passed out of committee last week and never got a vote from the full chamber.

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Minnesota is surrounded by states that allow legal sports betting in some form, and more than 30 states have legalized it since 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a federal law banning the practice.

The odds of Minnesota legalizing sports betting appeared better than ever this year. Before lawmakers convened in January, Democrats and Republicans in key leadership positions in both the House and Senate expressed interest in getting a bill passed. In March, the tribal gaming association expressed support for the House bill to legalize sports betting.

Reps. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, and Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, led legal sports betting efforts in the House. Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, sponsored a bill in the Senate that had the support of Democratic-Farmer-Labor Sen. Karla Bigham of Cottage Grove.

Garofalo expressed frustration at the fact that a proposal with bipartisan support in both chambers did not reach the governor’s desk to be signed into law

“(There are) too many legislators focused on short term political considerations instead of thinking about what is best for the whole state,” he said. “The sports gambling issue is symbolic of how screwed up the lawmaking process is in Minnesota.”

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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