Minnesota's fantasy sports bill is dead

A bill to legalize fantasy sports play in Minnesota was tabled in a key Minnesota Senate committee over concerns that it would promote the growth of online gambling.

Sensing that her bill was heading for defeat in the tax committee, Sen. Sandy Pappas moved to lay it over which essentially ends the bill for this year’s legislative session.

The bill which formally recognizes fantasy sports gaming successfully passed the House in April. 

But senators on the tax committee were concerned that fantasy sports are nothing more than a form of online gambling. 

“We had very large vote on the Senate floor last year to not allow on line gambling,” said Senate Tax Chair Rod Skoe.  “This clearly, from my perspective is in line with that.  And my expectation is that the Senate as a body would not be supportive of that.”

There was also push back from gambling opponents. Tom Prichard of the Minnesota Family Council testified that recognizing fantasy sports would grant it legal status.

“I think it’s going to blow the door wide open,” Prichard said. “Because then you got legal incentive for groups, companies to come in and move ahead with this in a big way.  And I think there’s a big difference in what’s going to happen. It’s going to get worse rather than get better.”

Senators also struggled with the tax implications of recognizing fantasy sports and the businesses that have already sprung up around it and will expand.

“Whether you support the bill or not, this lays bare the problems with the way we deal with gambling in Minnesota,” said Sen. Dave Thompson.

“We look at it as a cash cow for the state, and just like with smoking, we sit here and say we don’t want the bad things to happen but then we go in the back room and say we sure want the tax revenues and that’s really not a good place to be.”

By laying the bill over, Sen. Pappas hopes to work on the bill for consideration again in the 2017 legislative session.