Minnesota state capitol snow winter
Minnesota’s sports betting hopes received another boost this week after the state’s leading sports teams came out in support of the state’s latest legalization proposal.

By throwing their support behind Minnesota’s latest sports betting proposal, the state’s leading pro sports teams have helped push legalization after a similar effort fell short last year. The 2023 bill, backed by the state’s gaming tribes, would bring another key legalization market and complete one of the last remaining targets in this year’s legislative cycle.

The pro sports organizations included the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, MLB’s Minnesota Twins, the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.

“The Teams have a strong desire to work with the Tribes as fellow stakeholders to help establish a vibrant market that features as many betting brands as possible,” wrote the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association in a letter announcing the teams’ support.

“As such, the Teams support tribal sports betting exclusivity, and empowering all the Tribes to offer statewide mobile sports betting.”

Possible market structure

If approved, the current bill would allow all 11 of the state’s federally recognized gaming tribes to open retail sportsbooks at their casinos as well as offer statewide mobile sports betting.

Presumably most if not all the tribes would partner with national operators. Home to the aforementioned pro sports teams, and some of the nation’s most notoriously passionate fan bases, Minnesota would almost assuredly garner attention from all major operators.

A hearing on the bill scheduled Wednesday was postponed due to a snow storm in the Twin Cities. Lawmakers could revisit the bill as early as next week.

That includes market share leaders FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars, which combined have more than 80% of the US sports betting market by handle. Other national brands including PointsBet, Barstool and Chicago-based BetRivers would also likely seek partnerships.

With 11 potential licences, this could also open the way for up-and-coming brands looking to bolster their US presence including bet365, Fanatics and Betr. Some Minnesota tribes could also potentially partner with third-party tech operators to create their own, self-branded and locally focused sportsbooks, a move taken by other gaming tribes in multiple other states.

If approved, Minnesota’s sports betting market would resemble Michigan, its Midwestern neighbor, in both number of operators and structure. Federal law prohibits tribes from offering online sports betting unless they are licensed and function as if they were commercial operators, a method that Michigan undertook ahead of its sports betting launch in 2021.

The letter released last week indicates Minnesota’s pro sports venues will not have in-stadium sportsbooks, unless they can reach some deal with the tribes to do so. It also appears the teams are not pursuing the chance for licensure, even as more and more such sporting organizations have done so in recent years.

Though its far too early to give an accurate launch timeline, Minnesota could potentially see its first sportsbooks go live before year’s end.

Legislative process

While supporters, not surprisingly, remain bullish on the bill, it still remains to be seen if Minnesota will join the more than 30 other states with some form of legal sports betting.

A bill passed the Democrat-Farmer-Labor-controlled House with overwhelming bipartisan support last year but was stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. GOP lawmakers hoped to expand sports betting to state horse tracks, a non-started for the Minnesota gaming tribes.

The tribes, once again, have made clear they will not support any legislation that doesn’t give them exclusivity.

This remains a potential stumbling block, though it could be ameliorated by the new makeup of the state government. The DFL took control of the Senate, potentially clearing a smoother past for a tribal-only bill. Gov. Tim Waltz is a DFL party member and a tribal gaming supporter and would likely back any bill that passes this year.

Republican support will likely still be necessary for any bill, but elected officials from both parties – as well as the state’s gaming stakeholders – seem more unified than ever about passing mobile wagering legislation, a key foundation for what could still be a complex and lengthy legislative process.