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Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings catches a touchdown pass against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium on Dec. 24, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings catches a touchdown pass against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium on Dec. 24, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by David Berding/Getty Images via AFP.

The quest to introduce legal sports betting is gaining momentum in the Minnesota Legislature

HF 2000 passed the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee last week, two days after advancing out of the House Commerce, Finance, and Policy Committee. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Zack Stephenson, would allow for retail and statewide mobile sports betting via exclusive wagering licenses granted to the state’s 11 tribal nations.

With each license, all of the 11 tribes would be entitled to one brick-and-mortar sportsbook and one digital platform, or skin. The tribes would procure a license to offer online sports betting in Minnesota for an annual fee of $2,125.

The respective tribes would then be able to contract with many of the industry's best sportsbooks, including, DraftKings, FanDuel, and Barstool Sportsbook, to offer mobile sports wagering in Minnesota. These companies would be required to pay a $38,250 fee for a three-year license plus a $6,000 application fee.

All adjusted gross revenue generated by online sports betting in Minnesota would incur a 10% tax which would fund gaming regulation, consumer protection, and programs devoted to problem gambling and youth sports; retail sports betting would not be taxed.

Rep. Stephenson noted during a hearing that a mature Minnesota sports betting market could result in an estimated $12 million in taxes per year. This bill would also set the legal betting age at 21. Now, HF 2000 heads to the House Public Safety, Finance, and Policy Committee.   

The pulse of Minnesota sports betting

Rep. Stephenson’s bill has the broad backing of all the state’s tribes, its pro teams, and the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA).

“The Teams have a strong desire to work with the Tribes as fellow stakeholders to help establish a vibrant market that features as many betting brands as possible,” leaders of six Minnesota sports teams said in a letter voicing support for Stephenson’s bill.

Tribal exclusivity has previously been a sticking point in negotiations over the legalization of sports betting in Minnesota. A similar bill in 2022 passed the House but met resistance in the Senate for its omission of the state’s two horse racetracks - Canterbury Park and Running Acres - and ultimately died even though an amendment to include the tracks was added.

“Minnesota racetracks have been the only entities to offer sports betting for the past 38 years,” said Running Acres CEO Tara Ito in a statement when HF 2000 was introduced. She also noted that “Running Acres has taken over 10 million sports bets since opening.”

This year’s bill has also left the racetracks out of the running to receive sports betting licenses, so it will be interesting to see if an amendment is added at some point to include Canterbury Park and Running Acres. MIGA opposes racetracks being included in the bill, and Governor Tim Walz in the past has said he’d only sign a sports betting bill supported by the state’s tribal gaming association.

When Rep. Stephenson originally introduced this bill he quipped that “no Minnesotan should have to go to Iowa to have fun,” suggesting the state’s residents are crossing the border to take advantage of the legal Iowa sports betting market where Caesars, PointsBet, and BetMGM are among the 17 mobile sportsbooks available.

Neighboring states aren’t the only threat to Minnesota sports betting though. It’s estimated that more than one million Minnesota residents participate in illegal sports betting, placing over $2.5 billion in illegal bets each year.

Although the Gopher State is still one of only 14 states to not have legislation approving some sort of legal sports betting industry, HF 2000 presents a strong opportunity for that to change.