Minnesota House approves sports betting, but it's 'running out of time' in Senate

The Minnesota House voted Thursday night to legalize sports betting, though the measure faces long odds to become law this year.

The 70-57 House vote marks the furthest that sports wagering has gotten in Minnesota, even as it's been legalized in some form by 34 other states.

The House bill allows wagering through casinos owned by the state's 11 federally recognized Native American tribes. Part of the tax revenue would go to gambling addiction services and youth sports.

The approach doesn't have support in the Senate, where Majority Leader Jeremy Miller said this week that sports betting is "running out of time" before the legislative session ends May 23.

"There’s not support in the Senate to do sports betting for tribal casinos only," Miller-R-Winona, told reporters this week. "That’s what the House bill does."

Some Republican senators favor expanding access to racetracks and other venues, while some social conservatives oppose any expansion of gambling. Supporters of sports betting say it's not an expansion, but a way to turn the current black market into a regulated one.

"We're going to keep trying and keep pushing all the way to the end on that issue, and hopefully something can break loose over there," said state Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids and the House bill's author.

Iowa legalized sports wagering in 2019 inside casinos and mobile apps. Wisconsin approved sports books inside tribal casinos last year.

Minnesota's Native American tribes opposed legalization until this year, when they got on board with Stephenson's bill that gives them exclusivity over the market.

Supporters in the Senate tried a Hail Mary move this week to bring a sports betting bill up for a vote. Republicans ruled the effort out of order as unrelated to the tax bill that sports betting supporters tried to attach it to.

"OK, fine. So maybe it expands the scope a little bit," state Sen. Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove, said to laughter in the chamber. "But you know what it does? It expands the scope of Minnesotans who want to legally wager in a free market on sports events."