Minnesota’s Sports Betting Bill Falters Despite Late Compromise Efforts

  • Key takeaway one: Despite a late compromise attempt, Minnesota's sports betting bill, HF2000, failed to pass in the current legislative session.
  • Key takeaway two: The bill faced opposition due to its provisions on revenue allocation and historical horse race wagering machines, leading to a complex negotiation with various stakeholders.
  • Key takeaway three: With the legislative session running out of time, the future of sports betting in Minnesota hinges on future discussions, possibly as early as 2025.

In the whirlwind world of legislative action, the race against time to legalize sports betting in Minnesota has hit a speed bump. Despite a last-minute hustle to find common ground among key stakeholders, the effort has stumbled at the finish line in this legislative session.

The drama unfolded as the Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee integrated the language of sports betting bill HF2000 into HF5274, which aimed to ban historical horse race wagering machines. This late-game play left lawmakers with just six legislative days to pass the combined bill—a tall order by any measure.

Rep. Zack Stephenson, the bill's sponsor, lamented the tight timing, stating, "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.”

At the heart of the contention was the bill's approach to allocating sports betting revenue to state race tracks, a move that didn't sit well with the tracks themselves, who were eyeing sports betting licenses. In a twist, the Minnesota Horse Racing Commission green-lit historical horse race wagering machines (HHR) at the tracks, sparking opposition from state tribes.

In response, Stephenson pushed forward with a bill to ban HHR machines, which swiftly passed both the House and the Senate. Despite this legislative maneuver, the session clock ran out before sports betting could cross the finish line, largely due to partisan clashes over unrelated bills.

The stakes are high, and the players are many. Minnesota's tribes, horse racing tracks, and other interested parties seemed on the cusp of a breakthrough, crafting a compromise deal in the eleventh hour. However, without the luxury of time, the deal—and with it, the hope for legalized sports betting—has been shelved.

Looking ahead, Rep. Stephenson’s re-election in November could reignite the sports betting conversation as early as 2025. Until then, Minnesota's bet on sports betting remains a game of "wait and see," with all eyes on the next legislative session for the next play in this high-stakes legislative game.

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