ST. PAUL, Minne (FOX 9) – Efforts to legalize sports betting aren’t quite dead in the Minnesota legislature this year, but it sure hasn’t been a good week for them.
Backers had high hopes earlier in the year that 2022 would be the year Minnesota, along with more than 30 other states, legalized esports gambling. With three weeks left in the legislature, a sports betting bill has advanced toward the House of Representatives while the Senate bill gets stuck in committee.
“The road has gotten a little murkier and more difficult to see how we can pull it off, but I think there’s still an opportunity,” said State Assemblyman Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, the author of the bill.
Lawmakers have found it difficult to unravel several fault lines, some of which have religious and cultural underpinnings. The biggest problem, according to lawmakers, is deciding who gets to open a sports book.
The house bill gives the Native American tribes exclusive rights, which the tribes have brought to the table after conflicting efforts in recent years. Many Democrats support only one measure, which includes tribal exclusivity.
The Senate advocates a broader approach that will allow racetracks and other venues to open sportsbooks. Some Republicans say it’s the only way they’ll support a bill.
“I don’t see a way for sports betting this year unless we can get the tribal nations and the routes and others on board and at least have talks,” said Jeremy Miller, Senate Majority Leader, R-Winona and a pro-legalization advocate, told reporters this week.
There are other problems too. Social conservatives see sports betting as an extension of gambling, in contrast to supporters of the effort, who say it’s a way to turn the current black market into a regulated, taxed market. The House Bill directs 50 percent of tax revenue to gambling addiction services.
“Here I hear, ‘Well, we’re going to tax it so we can pay for any problems that arise from it,'” said R-Prinsburg MP Tim Miller, who opposed the measure in committee this week.
The House bill passed Thursday by a 14-7 vote by the Ways and Means Committee, its final committee stop before moving on to the House. But spokeswoman Melissa Hortman was noncommittal when reporters asked if she would hold a vote next week.
The House of Representatives wants to see if the Senate is moving forward with its measure, said Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park.
Senator with primary jurisdiction over gaming legislation, Sen. Gary Dahms, declined to comment when FOX 9 asked for an update. Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.
Senate supporters are frustrated by the lack of movement as the days tick down towards the end of the May 23 session.
“The Senate just doesn’t have the votes, folks,” DFL-Cottage Grove Sen. Carla Bigham told sports betting fans this week a twitter video. “The Republicans can’t even make him heard. We need your help.”