Minnesota’s prospects of legal sports wagering are slightly looking up after Senator Matthew Klein from the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) proposed amendments to his bill to include the two horse racing tracks that were omitted from the original version of the text. The new version of the bill proposes to tax sports betting operators at a 10% rate. As much as 30% of the collected taxes would go toward a specially designated fund for the economic development of the racetracks in the state. The amended version of the bill proposes an initial $20-million cap on the fund, with the racetracks then splitting $3 million per year.
Senator Klein has long been a proponent of bringing legal sports wagering to the North Star State. Klein’s amended bill would give the 11 tribal nations in Minnesota the exclusive right to legally operate sports betting under licenses. At the moment, the tribes are also the only legal operators of chance-based games in the state. The bill in question was originally introduced in late February by Senator Klein and House Representative Zack Stephenson but eventually got stalled. Members of the Republican Party disapproved of the bill because it did not contain any provisions for the funding of the local racetracks.
The Racetracks Want a Share of the Gambling Expansion in Minnesota
During yesterday’s committee hearing, Republican House Representative Patrick Garofalo from Farmington said tribal nations, sports franchises, and racetracks must reach a compromise before sports betting could be legalized in the state. Racetrack officials opposed the bill in its current form during the hearing. They argued the tracks deserve to be part of the gambling expansion in the state because they provide employment for Minnesotans and are already authorized to take legal wagers on horse races. Jake Grassel from the non-profit anti-gambling organization Citizens Against Gambling Expansion also disapproved of the move.
Randy Sampson, who heads the Canterbury Park Horse Racing, Poker & Casino, believes the proposed amendments to the bill are a good starting point but more needs to be done for the racetracks. Mr. Sampson is skeptical that the parties involved would be able to reach an agreement before the 2023 legislative session adjourns on May 22. Tracie Wilson, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Running Aces Casino, Hotel & Racetrack located in Columbus, also chimed in on the matter.
According to Wilson, the tracks would be greatly aided if they were allowed to offer chance games like roulette or craps on their premises. Only tribal casinos can legally offer such chance games at the moment, while the two racetracks are allowed to operate poker, baccarat, and blackjack tables. Mr. Grassel from Citizens Against Gambling Expansion was the only person to firmly oppose the legalization of sports wagering. He fears this might prove highly detrimental to people who already suffer from problem gambling.
The non-profit organization’s executive director also pointed out that this would be the biggest gambling expansion the North Star State has seen over the last 40 years. The hearing ended before members of the Senate committee managed to vote on Senator Klein’s amended bill. It appears the bill has multiple obstacles to overcome before it could finally reach the Senate for discussion.