Minnesota sports betting bill dead at end of chaotic, marathon day

Instead, Minnesota’s session has been marred by the arrest of a state senator and mired in partisan politics. Although the house voted to convene on Monday (20 May) at 10am, the senate is adjourned for the session. In the final days, the DFL and Republicans called each other names, had shouting matches on the floor,and filibustered. Both chambers met in extended sessions – some going as late as 5am – beginning last week.

Over the weekend, an omnibus bill was created and included many key issues in an effort to get a vote on some issues. Sports betting is not believed to be in the bill, although lawmakers were unsure.

“Why don’t you go through it?” asked Minority Leader Mark Johnson during end-of-session media availability. “Why don’t you look?”


HHR machines were banned

Both parties live streamed post-session media availability.

Lawmakers did ban historic horse racing machines at the state’s race tracks Sunday morning. But the chance for a 39th legal US wagering market evaporated.

We’re going to come up just short on the sports betting bill this year. But in the last few days we proved that we could find a deal that all the major stakeholders could live with. Tribes, tracks, charities… That’s meaningful progress that can be a foundation for the future.

— Zack Stephenson (@zackstephenson) May 20, 2024

This year will be the first since the US Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018 during which no state legalised through a legislature.

Stakeholders enthusiastically pointed to Alabama, Georgia, Minnesota and Missouri as states that could pass legislation in 2024. None did. In Alabama, sports betting was stripped from a comprehensive wagering bill. Lawmakers did not pass the gutted version, which would have created a state lottery and allowed electronic games of chance at certain venues.

In Georgia, a bill passed the senate, but didn’t get out of the house. Legislators in the lower chamber never even debated a bill. In Missouri, the idea to tie legal wagering to video lottery terminals – which has failed repeatedly – persisted. That proposed marriage ultimately killed hope of legislative approval. Missouri’s sports teams are tired of the wait and will likely send the decision to the voters in November.

Minnesota lawmakers plagued by distractions

Minnesota State Representative Zack Stephenson once again carried sports betting in the house. Matt Klein was the champion in the senate. However long-standing issues remained a challenge.

Minnesota’s 11 tribal nations would have exclusivity for retail and digital wagering under Stephenson’s bill. But the state’s two race tracks are opposed and continued to push for a piece of the pie or a bigger payout than the $625,000 annually in Stephenson’s bill. By federal law, the tribes already have exclusivity to gambling and operator land-based casinos.

There’s a certain irony to this happening on the day legalized sports betting died in Minnesota. https://t.co/2SsoKsBR4s

— Paul Charchian (@PaulCharchian) May 20, 2024

Stephenson was able to solve one issue that arose from a new law in Minnesota last year. The state’s charitable gaming groups make money from pull-tab machines. In the current setup, the state is the biggest winner in terms of pull-tab revenue. Allied Charities of Minnesota was looking to change the way the games are played to increase revenue.

The tribes balked, saying the change would make the pull-tabs too similar to slot machines. Stephenson brokered an agreement that would send $40m to charitable gaming. Because the bill didn’t pass, those groups won’t get the money this year.

Missouri initiative, DC bill last hopes

The road to the final day of the session also included multiple lawsuits between the tracks and tribes. In addition, the Minnesota Racing Commission decided to allow HHR machines at the tracks. In response, Stephenson moved a bill that would ban the machines. All of the distractions have taken time away from focusing on legal sports betting.

On a vote of 36-25, the Senate has passed S.F. 2219 (Klein), a historic horse racing bill, as amended by the House.#mnleg | #mnsenate

— Minnesota Senate Information (@MNSenateInfo) May 19, 2024

In the bigger picture, Missouri and Washington, DC are the only two US jurisdictions with hopes of opening up. Lawmakers in Mississippi tried to expand their market to include digital betting, but failed.

In DC, FanDuel in April took over the lottery’s GambetDC platform, giving bettors an improved option for wagering. But a DC Council bill could further open the market.

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