There was a groan at the Christmas dinner table when I told my nephew in his twenties what I was going to say in this column.
Lawmakers in Minnesota should wait at least another year before legalizing sports betting.
I initially thought I would endorse it. But it’s not going to make anyone’s life better, so don’t rush it. And after talking to people in the industry, it became clear that no company in Minnesota was making significant profits from sports betting.
My nephew didn’t buy it. Their lives would be happier, they said. I should be on the side of the consumer, they added.
Many Minnesotans want to use sports betting apps on their mobile phones. In his KSTP-TV poll last spring, 57% of his respondents said Minnesota should allow it. More than 30 states have legalized sports betting in some form since a 2018 Supreme Court ruling gave states sports betting authority.
Minnesota’s 11 tribes have held exclusive rights to operate casinos in the state since 1991. Why did they suddenly overthrow their initial resistance to sports betting last year?
Tribal representatives say they know Minnesotans want sports betting. They suspect they will lose revenue as people shift to sports gambling instead of video slots and table games at casinos, but they say the inevitability that brought them to the legislative debate. He said he had a feeling.
At both the state casino and the two racetracks, the benefits of sports betting are likely to be small. Unless you develop your own app, you’ll need to partner with a big platform provider like DraftKings or FanDuel. It can be a single-digit percentage of overall revenue.
There is little data on the impact mobile sports betting has had on existing casinos and racetracks, or on people in other states. Taro Ito, chief executive of Columbus racetrack and resort Running Aces, believes it will be “very bad” for the company’s business.
“People only have a certain amount of money at their disposal for entertainment,” Ito said. He added that the question is “do we lose big or do we really lose big?”
Some Minnesotans are already betting on sports using apps that circumvent local restrictions, according to a spokesperson for the Sports Betting Alliance, a trade group of platform companies. He said the main reason lawmakers should legalize sports betting is so that Minnesota businesses can “compete with their illegal offshore sportsbooks.”
However, many social and religious groups, recovery centers and academic researchers warn that the prevalence of gambling is exploitative and harmful.
It’s all true. Still, I’m leaning towards legalizing it in the hopes that people will be aware of the risks that readily available gambling poses. I would love to see. I see no reason for legislators to act quickly.
The tribe last year backed a sports betting bill drafted by DFL Coon Rapids Rep. Zach Stevenson. They opposed a Senate bill that would also license two racetracks.
These bills went nowhere in the election year session. Stephenson is ready to reintroduce his measures. Second-ranked Republican Senator Karin Howsley is likely to lead the bill. This is an issue where both parties have their opponents and supporters and party lines cannot be crossed cleanly.
Stevenson proposes using the taxes Minnesota collects from sports betting, after paying regulatory oversight, to combat gambling addiction and fund youth sports, especially in high-crime areas. (He’s the Hennepin County prosecutor when Congress isn’t in session and knows a lot about juvenile crime.)
But he pointed out that betting on sports is far greater than the income it generates for businesses and the taxes it generates for governments.
“It’s not going to be a big revenue stream for anyone,” Stephenson said.
He still wants to limit sports betting licenses to casinos. And it upset Ito with a running ace.
“What we need is equality,” he said.
Officials at Canterbury Park, Shakopee’s racetrack, are expected to release a view on Wednesday. His 10-year financial ties with Canterbury his Park and Shakopee his Mudewa Canton his Sioux communities appear to be on the brink of an end. It could change the Minnesota gambling scene beyond sports betting.
Stevenson said he was in no rush and wanted to make sure Minnesota’s gambling expansion was “well done and right.” It will make it easier for us to move forward with this sports betting bill, even while we are working on all of this.”
Evan Ramstad is the new business columnist for Star Tribune. He has been the paper’s deputy business editor since 2013. Previously, he worked for The Wall Street Journal, St. Paul’s Pioneer Press, and AP.