ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Legalized sports betting may hit the jackpot in the state legislature this year after all. The bill was presumed dead last week when two Senate Democrats wouldn't vote for it and horse track operators wouldn't support it. However, the odds may be changing.
Negotiations between horse track and tribal casino operators are ongoing and the sports betting bill’s author tells FOX 9 he thinks a deal is very close.
When legalized sports betting first came to the Minnesota legislature this year, the money went in three directions: to sports gambling sites and tribal gaming operators, and 10% to the state. Republicans argued the state's horse tracks would lose money, so they withheld their votes.
"I want to vote for it, but I do have some concerns over the tracks, number one, and the investment they've made in our state and what will happen to them as part of this," said St. Sen. John Jasinski (R-Faribault).
The state's cut is estimated at about $30 million a year. It would invest half the revenue to address problem gambling and half to support youth athletics, especially in communities where juvenile crime is high. But State Senator Matt Klein's amended bill is also offering horse track owners a slice of the pie — 30% of the state revenue up to $20 million, then a maximum of $3 million per year.
"Despite that offer, this bill at the current time does not enjoy the support of the horse tracks," said St. Sen. Matt Klein (DFL-Mendota Heights).
Republican State Senator Andrew Lang voted to move the bill through committee Wednesday and told Klein the bill is still alive if he gets horse track and casino operators on the same betting page.
"You definitely have a bunch of willing Republicans if the negotiations kind of continue," said St. Sen. Andrew Lang (R-Olivia).
Klein told FOX 9 he’s confident he can get this deal done, but he may still be an underdog because he’s running out of time. There’s a little more than a week left in this session and a revised bill would need to pass both the House and the Senate.