Minnesota Rep. Zack Stephenson is two-for-two this week after the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee Thursday morning moved his sports betting bill forward. It was voted out of the House Commerce, Finance, and Policy Committee Tuesday, and now heads to the Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.
Stephenson’s bill, HF 2000, would allow for retail and statewide mobile wagering and has the backing of the state’s 11 Indian tribes and its professional sports teams. Under the bill, all tribes would be licensed for wagering and entitled to one brick-and-mortar sportsbook and one digital platform, or skin.
Thursday’s committee meeting was succinct and filled with quips. After Stephenson introduced the bill and said it had the backing of all the state’s pro teams, committee Chair Jamie Becker-Finn asked if that included Minnesota’s “professional ultimate [frisbee] team.” She asked with a smile, and Stephenson looked surprised but said, “Well, add that to the list!”
DraftKings’ David Prestwood was the only person to testify in person in favor of the bill, while two groups — the Minnesota Alliance on Problem Gambling and the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition — were opposed. The latter group, represented by Executive Director Leah Patton, laid out the ills of wagering. But in the end, she thanked Stephenson for hearing their concerns.
“It’s a pretty good version of something we really don’t like,” Patton closed with.
Becker-Finn gave a chuckle and responded, “Thank you for summarizing that really well …. That might be the best opposing testimony I’ve ever heard.”
Clearing up issues
Several committee members asked questions surrounding how the self-exclusion list works and whether or not the bill would allow for political or other types of betting not related to sports. Stephenson was earnest in his answer, saying, “I don’t think so — that’s not the intent of the bill,” and promised to get more clarity from the bill writers.
Last year, Stephenson advanced a similar bill that passed the House but was amended in the Senate to include two horse racetracks among those that could be licensed for sports betting. The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association then withdrew its support, and the bill died in the Senate.
This year, the tribes would be directly licensed as sports betting operators and able to contract with commercial entities such as DraftKings or FanDuel to offer wagering. Betting would be taxed at 10% of adjusted gross revenue, the legal betting age would be 21, and there would be significant funding for problem and responsible gambling programs.
Stephenson said that the bill would fund itself in terms of paying for oversight and regulatory costs, and that 40% of the state’s share of revenue would go to responsible gambling programs and 40% would be directed to youth sports programs, particularly in high-risk areas. Stephenson said the percentage of funds earmarked for responsible gambling would be among the most pledged by any state.