Sports betting bill emerges but effort a longshot

Top legislative proponents of legalized sports betting in Minnesota have pared back their plan in an attempt to win support of American Indian tribes.

A bill set for introduction soon would allow betting on professional and collegiate games at tribal casinos only and not by any virtual method. The state would take a half-percent cut of the wagers and put parameters around the betting.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said he’s been in discussion with tribal representatives about working out an agreeable plan, acknowledging that nothing will advance without their blessing.

“These conversations have been going on for close to a year. We’ve addressed the concerns people have brought forward to us,” Garofalo said. “We hope this will be enough to get us across the finish line and begin that process of having these compacts negotiated.”

The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association has made clear it opposes any off-reservation gambling. It has yet to formally weigh in on the new proposal. Buy-in from tribal nations is considered crucial to any plan moving forward.

In a letter to state leaders last month, the group’s chairman Charles Vig advocated instead for “careful study” of implications of sports betting and an examination of experiences in states where it has been made legal.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a federal prohibition on sports betting. It set off a flurry of proposals in states to get in on the action and grab a share of the revenue.

Rep. Nick Zerwas, said Minnesota should jump in, too.

“God help us if on a Vikings-Packers Sunday game, Minnesotans have to go into Wisconsin to bet on the game. That would be crazy,” Zerwas said. “So we need to act responsibly but quickly.”

No sports wagering bills have been introduced in the Senate, but some lawmakers have said proposals are in the works.

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