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Despite Progress, Minnesota Sports Betting Hopes Die at Finish Line

Robert Linnehan

by Robert Linnehan in Sports Betting News

Updated May 20, 2024 · 8:34 AM PDT

Karl Anthony Towns of the Timberwolves.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
  • Another year, another failed attempt to legalize Minnesota sports betting
  • Despite purported deal between tracks, tribes, and charities, legislators could not hammer out a deal
  • Sports betting will again be discussed in 2025

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades….not Minnesota sports betting.

Despite a last minute flurry of activity and a first-time deal between tribes, tracks, and charities, Minnesota lawmakers could not usher sports betting bill across the finish line during the final day of the state’s legislative session.

Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL-35A), the author of a sports betting bill that had the best chance at legalization this year, announced the legislation would not be approved late Sunday evening.

Another Year, Another Failure…But Optimism Remains

As lawmakers tried to hammer out deals during the final day of legislative action in the state, trickles of information started to leak out to the public that sports betting hopes were still very much alive.

Dana Ferguson, a senior reporter covering Minnesota politics for MPR News, noted at one point late during the day’s action that the language of Stephenson’s sports betting bill, HF 5274, would be added to an omnibus tax bill and moved forward to the House of Representatives.

However, when the bill was eventually revealed, sports betting was not included.

Shortly thereafter Stephenson announced on X that sports betting would not be moving forward in 2024.

“We’re going to come up just short on the sports betting bill this year. But in the last few days we proved that we could find a deal that all the major stakeholders could live with. Tribes, tracks, charities… That’s meaningful progress that can be a foundation for the future,” he said.

Despite the failure to move the bill across the finish line, Stephenson announced that for the first time ever in this process a deal between the Minnesota tribes, horse tracks, and charities was agreed upon to institute sports betting. This is the first time all three groups reportedly came to an agreement on how sports betting revenues and taxes would be distributed if legalized.

It’s a disappointing end to the session for Minnesota racetracks, Randy Sampson, chairman and president of Canterbury Park, told Sports Betting Dime.

“We are disappointed that the only gaming bill that passed this year will prevent our racetracks from increasing purses by using Historical Horse Racing. We believe this proposal deserves a much closer look than it was given by the legislators. However, we are encouraged that a number of legislators worked hard for the past several weeks to expand the benefits of the sports betting bill so racetracks, tribal casinos and charities could all support a final package. Although the bill did not pass, we will continue to work with legislators and the Minnesota racing commission to find ways to enhance purses and strengthen Minnesota’s horse racing industry,” he said.

Sports Betting Bill Details

Stephenson’s bill provided exclusive control of retail and online sports betting to the following 11 state tribes:

  • Bois Forte Band of Chippewa
  • Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • Grand Portage Band of Chippewa
  • Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
  • Lower Sioux Indian Community
  • Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
  • Prairie Island Indian Community
  • Red Lake Nation
  • Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
  • Upper Sioux Community
  • White Earth Nation

Minnesota professional sports franchises also supported this bill.

While his sports betting bill was not approved, Stephenson was able to usher his bill that prohibits state tracks from authoring historical horse racing (HHR) games across the finish line. HHR is an electronic gambling game that allows users to bet on horse races that have already been run.

SF 2219 was approved in the Senate on Friday, May 17, by 71-58 vote and in the House last night by a 36-25 vote.

The bill was a result of the Minnesota Racing Commission voting last month to allow 500 HHR machines in the state’s two racetracks, Canterbury Park and Running Aces.

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