ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Minnesota House lawmakers unveiled legislation Monday that would allow bets on college and professional sporting events placed from tribal casinos and mobile apps.
The bill's author, state Rep. Zach Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, said he will hold a Tuesday hearing in the House Commerce committee, which he chairs. Four House members, two Democrats and two Republicans, participated in a news conference Monday afternoon about the bill.
The path toward passage through the Legislature is complicated. For years, Minnesota's Native American tribes have opposed legalized sports betting, but their position has evolved in recent months as more than 30 states have authorized the practice.
"What we have done is develop a model that is specific to Minnesota, that works with the dynamic that we have here in Minnesota, that’s designed for Minnesotans," Stephenson told reporters.
The bill allows wagers placed at tribal brick-and-mortar casinos and on mobile apps, which tribes could develop with commercial operators like DraftKings or FanDuel. It would not allow sportsbooks at Minnesota racetracks or in stadiums.
Moments before the lawmakers released their bill, the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association released a statement expressing openness to it, while stopping short of a full endorsement.
"The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association and its 10 member tribal nations support state efforts to authorize sports wagering both at tribal gaming properties and through online/mobile platforms and believe tribes are best positioned to offer this new market to the state’s consumers," the group said in its statement.
The measure calls for a 10 percent tax on net profits from wagers placed on mobile. Tribes’ brick-and-mortar profits, as now, would not be taxed.
There’s no official tax revenue estimate, but Stephenson and state Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said $20 million a year would be a fair guess. Of the revenues collected by the state, 40 percent will go toward addressing problem gambling, 40 percent to youth sports with an emphasis on areas with high juvenile crime, and 20 percent to regulatory efforts and ensuring athletic integrity.
Pro sports teams' top concern is ensuring sports gambling doesn't impact on-field play, Stephenson said. On Monday, the National Football League suspended Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley for at least the 2022 season for betting on games while he was away from the team in 2021.
Senators have introduced their own bill. The Senate Republican who has led sports betting efforts in that chamber reacted coolly to the House's proposal while expressing optimism that a bill will pass this year.
"The (House) offer in its current form will not give the consumer a good product. We need to expand the options for consumers to have the best possible experience," state Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, said in an email. He did not go into detail with his concerns.
Gov. Tim Walz will sign a bill into law if the Legislature passes one, the governor's spokeswoman said.
But passing a 28-page bill introduced five weeks into the legislative session with significant issues left to work out is no guarantee, supporters acknowledged.
"This is a multi-billion-dollar black market that we’re transitioning to a regulated environment, so it is natural that there is going to be conflict about who makes money from this," Garofalo said.