Minnesota is looking like it could become one of the next wave of states to have legalized sports betting. Legislation is already drafted for the Minnesota Senate to look into the issue in 2019. The question is, will the new DFL majority in the Minnesota House be onboard with adding sports betting to the state’s list of gambling options?

GOP Sen. Roger Chamberlain, who chairs the state Senate Taxes Committee, said he expects to have bipartisan sponsorship on a bill he believes could pass by the end of the 2019 session, which opens Jan. 8. “We have a rough draft. We’ll get it in and then we’ll make the tweaks as we go,” he said.

Chamberlain expected several legislative committees to work on the issue, including his own. “It’s touching a lot of folks, and when you’ve got a lot of money involved then people get a little concerned,” he said. “But I think there’s popular support for it. Admittedly, this is not the top of the list for priorities … but it is certainly something that can get done.”

There are still may questions facing Minnesota. Legislators will need to decide what, when and how much to tax. A draft bill in 2018 included a 1 percent tax, but that percentage would apply to the amount of the bet, not the hold kepy by the casino or sports book.

Chamberlain said that senators must determine a tax rate that gernerates enough revenue, but not so much that it discourages bettors from participating in legal betting, as opposed to continuing to bet in the unregulated market.

Incoming Commerce Committee Chair Laurie Halverson (DFL-Eagan), said there isn’t a bill yet in the House, or even a sponsor. “It’s an interesting issue because it doesn’t line up on partisan lines,” she said.

Halverson said that House members will want to know what it costs and what the state gets out of it, among other things. Which could complicate the issue as a large number of incoming House members will need to get familiar with a number of issues, including sports gambling.

Eleven tribes in Minnesota operate gambling facilities through compacts negotiated with the state under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Minnesota’s agreement with these tribes would most likely have to be renegotiated to allow sports betting. However, drafting of legislation in the state would not be required to involve tribes, because the existing compacts do not include sharing of tribal profits with the state in exchange for exclusivity.

That means the Legislature is able to authorize sports betting for nontribal gambling without the consent of the tribes, said Kevin Quigley, who specializes in Indian affairs and gambling business law. “But politics being politics, tribes would have an interest in participating with this new form of gaming,” Quigley said. And once a form is made legal for nontribal gambling entities, the state must negotiate in good faith to allow the same form by tribes.

Chamberlain said he has meetings scheduled with representatives of the state’s gambling tribes to discuss the issue. “I think they most definitely are interested,” Chamberlain said. “It will benefit the tribes and it will benefit Buffalo Wild Wings or anyone who decides to open a sportsbook. It is a totally different type of gambling than slot machines and cards.”

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