Odds Against Minnesota Legalizing Sports Betting

  • Entering this year, there was optimism that Minnesota was going to legalize sports betting in 2024.
  • Disagreements between horse racing tracks and Minnesota tribal casinos have led to tension, with the bill likely dead.
  • Running Aces horse racing track filed a lawsuit against tribal casinos for operating gambling games not authorized by the compact.

Minnesota’s sports betting bill is on thin ice as tension between horse racing tracks and tribes heats up. With the Minnesota legislative session scheduled to conclude this month, HF2000 is in dire straits as the deadline approaches.

Earlier this week, HF2000 advanced through the House to the Ways and Means Committee. The sports betting bill would authorize and regulate wagering on athletic events.

Additionally, HF2000 aims to create grants administered by the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission and to fund a study on the gambling habits of young adults.

However, there doesn’t appear to be much optimism for the bill being approved in the Minnesota Senate. This is in stark contrast to the momentum that was behind sports betting earlier in the year. 

As the horse racing tracks and tribes continue to butt heads, the Senate is unlikely to vote in favor of a sports betting bill. The Senate would like to see a compromise by all stakeholders before providing the green light.

Revenue Sharing Source Of Division

Currently, there are two outlets for legal gambling in Minnesota: Horse racing tracks and tribal casinos. According to the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, Minnesota negotiated 22 tribal-state compacts with 11 tribes, which paved the way for 18 tribal casinos.

Meanwhile, Minnesota allows two horse racetracks to operate legally in the state. Along with the tribal casinos, Canterbury Park and Running Aces are significant stakeholders in Minnesota’s gambling industry.

In January, the racetracks inquired to the Minnesota Racing Commission about approving historical horse racing. Last month, there was pushback from Rep. Zack Stephenson regarding the form of gambling.

“You pick what horse you want to bet on without knowing what the race you’re betting on is,” said Rep. Stephenson. “The computer randomly selects a race that you are betting on. And then if you picked the horse that won the random race that was selected, you win.”

The Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division compared it to slot machines, though horse tracks argued that it isn’t completely random. With the horse tracks growing frustrated, in March, the Senate approved an amended sports betting bill, SF1949, with a revenue-sharing model proposed by the tribes.

The bill would have allowed tribes to provide mobile sports betting products to the public. However, with the racetracks not on board, the bill faced an uphill battle to legalization.

In an attempt to please the racetrack executives, the commission ultimately approved 500 historical horse racing machines for Canterbury Track and Running Aces. While that was one obstacle cleared for the horse tracks, the tribes didn’t appreciate the gambling machines being approved.

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) subsequently filed a complaint with the Minnesota Court of Appeals to overturn the approval of the historical horse racing machines.

Running Aces Sue Tribal Casinos, Senator Arrested

The final blow to HF2000 may have been the federal racketeering (RICO Act) lawsuit filed by Running Aces against Grand Casino and Treasure Island.

On April 17, the horse racing track claimed in a suit that three casinos are offering games in violation of state and federal gambling laws.

Per the lawsuit, Grand Casino Hinckley, Grand Casino Mille Lacs, and Treasure Island Resort & Casino have illegal card games in their casinos.

With the racetracks and tribes at their wits end and embroiled in a lawsuit, there doesn’t appear to be a compromise in the foreseeable future. And, oh yeah, Democratic Sen. Nicole Mitchell’s arrest on federal burglary charges complicates the process.

Republican Sen. Jeremy Miller admitted that her absence makes the approval of sports betting even more difficult.

“I still think there’s a path. I think it’s a narrow path. But if we can get the stakeholders together and work towards an agreement, there’s still an opportunity to get it done,” Miller said. “But every day that goes by it is less and less likely.”

The deadline for passing the Minnesota sports betting bill is May 20.

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Kyle Eve
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Kyle Eve is a seasoned pro of The Sports Geek. Since joining the team in 2012, Kyle, has covered some of the biggest sporting events in the world. From the Super Bowl and World Series to March Madness, the NBA Finals, Kentucky Derby, and many more, Kyle has provided reliable analysis for millions of readers. After dedicating himself to hockey and football in high school, Kyle placed his first sports bet on his 18th birthday. Since then, he has spent his entire adult life devoting himself to becoming the best sports bettor and casino gambler possible. Kyle is from Windsor, ON, Canada

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