A brief letter by a major player in the sphere of legal gaming has changed the politics around the problem of sports betting in Minnesota. At least for now.
Last week, Charles Vig, the chair of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, composed Gov. Tim Walz and the four legislative leaders to state the nation’s gambling tribes were not interested in adding sports gambling to their offerings.
But he didn’t stop there. From the letter, Vig said the tribes will oppose passing of legislation to include Minnesota to the growing list of countries with legalized sports gambling. “The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association continues to oppose the expansion of off-reservation gaming, including the legalization of sports betting,” he wrote.
The seven casino-owning tribes at Minnesota join a group of unusual allies in opposing sports betting statements this year, including groups like Citizens Against Gambling Expansion, which worries about the ill effects of gambling, including addiction.
The tribes don’t have a veto over non-tribal gambling, but their voices are powerful, especially among DFLers like Gov. Tim Walz and the new House majority. Under federal law, states need to deal in good faith to allow tribes to offer you the very same kinds of gambling that’s legal off-reservation.
Until a U.S. Supreme Court decision last spring cleared the way for states to provide sports betting similar to what is legal in Nevada casino gambling books, that legislation wasn’t an issue in Minnesota. It is. By a 6-3 majority, the court ruled in Murphy v. NCAA that Congress exceeded its authority by preventing states from legalizing and regulating sports gambling. The case was brought by New Jersey, which wanted to provide an increase to its fighting Atlantic City casinos, also had tried a series of legal moves to end the federal ban against sports betting in most states except Nevada.
From the vast majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. wrote that Congress has the authority to pass legislation to regulate sports betting itself. But if it decides not to, each nation is free to do so, and several have already done just that.
A draft bill circulated at the Minnesota capitol in the conclusion of the 2018 session but no formal bill was filed and no hearings were held. Supporters of the law, led by Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Blaine, are coordinating a bill for this session,.
Chamberlain, who’s chair of the Senate Taxes Committee, was surprised and a bit disappointed at the tribes’ position, which he found out about through Twitter. “We met with them and while they’re not always in alignment they are obviously worried about losing their economic base, the economic engine,” Chamberlain said. “We understand that. We have reassured them that we are not interested in damaging that fascination or jeopardizing tribal compacts.”
State Sen. Roger Chamberlain
Courtesy of Senate Media Services
State Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Blaine, said cellular gambling must be part of the state law because that is where a lot of the betting action is.
However, Chamberlain said he is optimistic that it remains subject to discussions, and he said he believes it might be a win for the state, the tribes and for non-tribal gambling. “There is no reason to shut the remainder of the country and the remainder of the possible customers and operators and players from getting involved in a totally safe and lawful business,” he explained. “We hope to get to a place where everybody can agree and I believe we could.”
Once it seems clear that tribes would be able to give sports gambling in their own casinos if it is made legal for non-tribal gambling, legal advisors notice that sports betting sets up some hard choices such as tribes. The first issue is that gambling on sports — about the results of matches, on scores and other results — is not especially lucrative for casinos. The other is that under federal law, tribes may only offer betting over the boundaries of reservations. This makes the most-promising aspect of sports betting — remote betting online or via mobile devices — may be off limits to them, but to not non-tribal sports books.
Chamberlain said mobile gambling must be part of this state law since that’s where a lot of the gambling action is. Part of the rationale for legalizing it state by state is to capture some of the bets made lawfully.
“In this economy and culture you require mobile access to become rewarding,” Chamberlain said.
Online betting would also make gaming available in remote and rural parts of the country which may not have casinos or even industrial sports books near. 1 possible solution for the tribes would be to declare the gambling takes place where a participant’s phone is, but where the computer server which processes the wager is located. That is far from resolved law, however.
“We can find our way round those problems and get it done,” Chamberlain said.
Vig is chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community of Minnesota, which possesses the Mystic Lake and Little Six casinos, didn’t shut the door on ultimate tribal interest in sport betting. He did, however, ask the state to proceed gradually.
“While there’s a desire by some to look at this matter during the present session, it appears that the public interest will be best served first by careful analysis of sports betting’s implications in this state, evaluation of other states’ experiences where sports betting was legalized, and thorough consultation with the large number of stakeholders interested in it,” Vig wrote.
A spokesman for the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association said leaders weren’t available for interviews and that Vig’s letter are their sole statement on the issue.
State Rep. Laurie Halverson
State Rep. Laurie Halverson
The seat of the home committee that would consider any sports betting statements said the tribal association’s letter doesn’t change her position on the issue. Rep. Laurie Halverson, DFL-Eagan, stated there are still no patrons within her caucus pushing a statement. Ever before the tribes left their position known, Halverson said she intended to be cautious and deliberate on the subject.
“I’ve yet to see language or possess whatever introduced,” she said.
But she anticipates laws will surface, and that she wants to possess at least an information hearing so lawmakers can understand the consequences and hear from both backers and opponents. “I believe we’re all in learning style,” she said. “If something is that brand new, that’s the legislative model generally. Things take time and we have to be deliberative about these significant modifications to Minnesota law.”
At a press conference Wednesday,” Walz stated his fundamental position on the issue is to legalize and regulate. But he said that should come just after a procedure for hearings and discussion. “I expect adults to make mature decisions,” he explained of gaming. “I also realize that addiction comes in many forms, if that’s alcohol, tobacco or cannabis or sports betting and those can have social consequences that are pretty catastrophic.
“If the Legislature chooses to take that up, we are definitely interested in working together to make it right,” Walz said.
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