Legalized sports betting may be coming to Minnesota. Just not anytime soon.


A brief letter by a major player in the world of legal gambling has changed the politics around the issue of sports betting in Minnesota. At least for today.
Last week, Charles Vig, the seat of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, wrote Gov. Tim Walz and the four legislative leaders to say the state’s gaming tribes were not interested in adding sports gambling to their offerings.
But he didn’t stop there. From the letter, Vig said the tribes will probably oppose passage of legislation to add Minnesota to the growing list of states with legalized sports betting. “The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association continues to oppose the expansion of off-reservation gambling, including the legalization of sports gambling,” he wrote.
The seven casino-owning tribes in Minnesota join a group of unusual allies in opposing sports betting statements this year, including groups such as Citizens Against Gambling Expansion, which concerns about the ill effects of gambling, such as dependency.
The tribes do not possess a veto over non-tribal gaming, but their voices are powerful, especially among DFLers such as Gov. Tim Walz and the new House majority. Under federal law, states must bargain in good faith to allow tribes to offer you the same kinds of gambling that’s legal off-reservation.
Until a U.S. Supreme Court decision last spring cleared the way for countries to provide sports gambling like what is legal in Nevada casino gambling books, that law wasn’t a problem in Minnesota. Now it is. By a 6-3 majority, the court ruled in Murphy v. NCAA that Congress exceeded its authority by preventing states from legalizing and regulating sports gambling. The case had been brought by New Jersey, which desired to give a boost to its struggling Atlantic City casinos, also had attempted a series of legal moves to end the federal ban against sports betting in all states except Nevada.
From the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. wrote that Congress has the ability to pass legislation to govern sports gambling itself. But if it decides not to, then every nation is free to do so, and several have already done just that.
A draft bill circulated in the Minnesota capitol at the conclusion of this 2018 session however no formal bill was ever filed and no hearings were held. Supporters of the legislation, headed by Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Blaine, are coordinating a bill for this particular session,.
Chamberlain, who’s chair of the Senate Taxes Committee, was surprised and a little disappointed at the tribes’ place, which he found out about through Twitter. “We met with them and while they are not always in alignment they’re clearly concerned about losing their economic foundation, the economic engine,” Chamberlain said. “We know that. We’ve reassured them that we are not interested in damaging that interest or jeopardizing tribal compacts.”
State Sen. Roger Chamberlain
Courtesy of Senate Media Services
State Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Blaine, said mobile gambling must be a part of the state law since that is where a lot of the betting action is.
However, Chamberlain said he is optimistic it remains subject to discussions, and he said he thinks it could be a win for the nation, the tribes and for non-tribal betting. “There’s no reason to shut the rest of the state and the rest of the possible customers and players and operators from taking part in a totally safe and legal business,” he said. “We hope to get to a place where everyone can agree and I believe we could.”
While it appears evident that tribes would have the ability to offer sports gambling in their own casinos if it is made valid for non-tribal gambling, legal advisors note that sports gambling sets up some hard choices such as tribes. The first issue is that gambling on sports — about the outcomes of games, on scores and other results — is not especially rewarding for casinos. Another is that under national law, tribes may simply offer gambling over the boundaries of bookings. That makes the most-promising facet of sports betting — distant betting online or via mobile devices — might be off limits to these, but to not non-tribal sports books.
Chamberlain said cellular gambling must be part of this state law because that is where much of the gambling action is. Part of the rationale for legalizing it state by state is to capture a few of the bets made illegally.
“In this economy and culture you require mobile access to become rewarding,” Chamberlain said.
Online betting would likewise make gambling available in rural and remote areas of the state that might not have casinos or industrial sports books nearby. One possible solution for the tribes would be to declare the gaming takes place where a player’s phone is, but in which the computer server which processes the bet is situated. That’s far from solved law, nevertheless.
“We can find our way around those issues and do it,” Chamberlain said.
Vig is chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community of Minnesota, which owns the Mystic Lake and Little Seven casinos, did not shut the door on eventual tribal interest in sport gambling. He did, however, ask the state to proceed slowly.
“While there’s a desire by some to look at this issue during the current session, it appears that the public interest will be best served first by careful analysis of sports gambling’s consequences within this state, evaluation of other nations’ experiences where sports gambling has been legalized, and thorough consultation with the large number of stakeholders interested in it,” Vig wrote.
A spokesman for the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association said pioneers weren’t available for interviews and that Vig’s letter are their only statement on the problem.
State Rep. Laurie Halverson
State Rep. Laurie Halverson
The seat of the home committee that would consider any sports gambling statements said the tribal institution’s letter does not change her position on the problem. Rep. Laurie Halverson, DFL-Eagan, stated there are still no patrons in her caucus pushing a bill. Before the tribes made their position known, Halverson stated she planned to be careful and deliberate on the subject.
“I have yet to watch language or possess whatever introduced,” she said.
But she anticipates legislation will surface, and she wishes to have at least an info hearing so lawmakers can understand the consequences and hear from both backers and opponents. “I think we’re all in learning mode,” she said. “If something is that brand new, that is the legislative model generally. Things take time and we need to be deliberative about these major modifications to Minnesota law.”
At a press conference Wednesday, Walz stated his fundamental position on the problem will be to legalize and regulate. But he said that should come only after a procedure for hearings and discussion. “I expect adults to make adult decisions,” he said of gambling. “I also realize that dependence comes in many forms, whether that be alcohol, tobacco or cannabis or sports betting and these can have social effects which are fairly devastating.
“If the Legislature chooses to take that up, we’re certainly interested in working with them to get it right,” Walz said.

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