Minnesota Sports Betting Bill Has Good Odds, Rep. Says

Minnesota Sports Betting Bill Has Good Odds, Rep. Says

Another Midwestern state will take up legal sports betting next month. Some of its most high profile backers believe it could pass before the end of next year.

Minnesota Rep. Pat Garofalo has joined a group of lawmakers pushing for sports betting legislation in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The Minn Post reported earlier this month state Sen. Rodger Chamberlin expects a bipartisan bill that could pass “easily” during the 2019 session.

His fellow GOP Rep. shared a similar confidence.

”I'm confident it's going to happen,” Garofalo said in an interview with Gambling.com. “I just can't tell you what month or year yet.”

That sentiment is also shared by industry lobbyists, who have already descended on St. Paul to discuss sports betting legislation. As a bill slowly gains momentum toward passage, how that comes to fruition remains to be seen.

Minnesota Works Through Multiple Hurdles

Any potentially contentious legislation has to work through a myriad of stakeholders and concerns. Minnesota is no exception.

Garofalo expects bipartisan debate on the issue, which doesn’t fall under typical partisan fault lines. The GOP narrowly control the state Senate, but the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party took control of the state House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections. Incoming Gov. Tim Walz is also a member of the DFL.

Other stakeholders such as the state’s Native American tribes that operate casinos, the government-sponsored state lottery as well as professional sports teams will all weigh in on legislation. That requires a balancing act to try to optimize the best scenario for each party – as well as maximize tax revenue for state coffers.

Lawmakers say that can best be accomplished through mobile betting.

Eight states are taking legal bets now, and the District of Columbia is set to join them early next year. They have all taken different approaches to legalization, but it’s clear those with mobile and online betting are generating more revenue.

The revenue potential, as well as the cultural shift toward mobile gaming support, makes regulated online access a cornerstone of any Minnesota legislation.

“The American sports fan has spoken, they want to bet on their favorite team from the couch in their living room,” Garofalo said. “And if we don't provide a regulated environment for that, they're just going to continue to use the offshore sportsbooks that provide that service right now.”

Other key priorities, most notably tax rate, will still need to be discussed. But Minnesota leaders have prioritized the possible new legal gambling market as a way to combat illegal wagering, not necessarily a budget panacea. This could lead to greater flexibility when discussing legislation.

“In Minnesota the focus is really that we're not focusing on trying to raise tax revenue because it really, that's not what legalizing sports gambling is primarily about,” Garofalo said. “What it's really about is defunding the underground economy, the black market and a funding source for organized crime.”

If completed quickly, Minnesota may also leap several of its neighbors considering sports betting bills of their own.

Midwest States Consider Sports Betting

Up to 25 states could have legal sports betting in the next five years. A significant portion of those are expected to be in the Midwest.

Minnesota neighbors Iowa and South Dakota are among the states that have introduced legislation or intend to do so sometime next year.

Meanwhile a host of other states in the region seems poised to pass a bill in the near future. That includes Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, which all appear to have broad support for legalized gambling.

It’s still a long legislative journey till Minnesota residents can place a bet on the Vikings from their couch, but all signs point toward that reality coming sooner than later.

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