The impact of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on Minnesota, as with many other states, remains to be seen. There is considerable uncertainty about what will happen, and when. We talked to a number of state gambling experts about their thoughts on possible sports gambling developments in Minnesota. We’ve recapped them below in a Q&A format.
Q: Will Minnesota seek to legalize sports gambling?
A: There are some legislators who are interested in introducing legislation to permit sports betting in the state. However, there are a number of important policy questions yet to be resolved. For example, will betting be limited to professional sports or will college athletics also be included? How about high school and little league? Determining what constitutes “sports” is another issue. Is NASCAR a sport? What about betting on individual players or betting on certain plays? Also, would sports betting be available through internet-based operations or brick and mortar locations only? These are all questions that need to be vetted or discussed.
Q: If sports betting becomes legal in Minnesota, will this be done through the tribes or the state?
A: It’s likely that at least some tribes will be interested in sports betting if it is permitted in the state. It’s not at all clear if the state will be a participant (i.e., through the lottery) or if the state will license operators of sports betting. These are some of the additional serious policy discussions that will have to occur.
Q: What has to happen at the state level (whether through the tribes or the state) for sports gambling to become active and how quickly could this happen?
A: At the present time, betting on sports events is illegal in Minnesota with the exception of “private social bets,” which are not organized, commercialized or systematic. This means the occasional office pool is not illegal. However, any form of commercial sports betting will require legislation. An additional question relates to the state’s constitution. The Minnesota constitution prohibits the legislature from authorizing a lottery or the sale of lottery tickets, except a lottery and the sale of lottery tickets by the state. The Minnesota Supreme Court has never interpreted what forms of gambling constitute a “lottery” within the meaning and intent of the constitution. Some courts equate “lottery” with “gambling,” while others find a lottery to be a specific form of gambling. While most would probably argue that sports betting involves some “skill” and is therefore not a lottery, it remains to be seen if the issue presents itself to the court for interpretation.
As for the tribes, sports betting is considered Class III gaming. This means that a tribe may conduct it if it is legal in the state, and the state and the tribe negotiate and enter into a tribal-state compact that governs the operation of the sports betting. Before a tribe could engage in sports betting, it would have to make a request of the state and the state would have to agree to a compact.
Q: What are the biggest obstacles in Minnesota that would make it difficult to initiate sports gambling?
A: The biggest obstacle will be settling on a sports betting scheme (and law) that is satisfactory to the many factions who have an interest. Some parties will want to limit any sports betting to brick and mortar facilities while outstate companies will come in and advocate for internet-based gaming. The major league sports teams will want involvement—either monetary or limitations (such as requiring use of official league data, the ability to prevent players from wagering on their own events and the ability to restrict certain types of wagers)—and the state will want revenue in the form of fees and taxes. Satisfying everyone will be difficult, at best.
Q: What is the perspective on potential sports gambling from Minnesota’s charitable gambling sector?
A: Allied Charities of Minnesota, which represents non-profit organizations holding gaming licenses, considers sports betting to be “real betting,” fundamentally different than social gambling, and encourages appropriate regulation. Its concern is that the state not provide tax advantages to out-of-state, for-profit companies at the expense of supporting local charitable gaming that functions as a safety net for struggling communities and families in Minnesota.