A brief letter by a major player in the sphere of legal gaming has altered the politics around the issue of sports betting in Minnesota. At least for now.
Last week, Charles Vig, the seat of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, composed Gov. Tim Walz and the four legislative leaders to say the nation’s gambling tribes weren’t interested in adding sports gambling to their offerings.
But he did not stop there. In the letter, Vig said the tribes will probably oppose passage of legislation to add Minnesota to the growing list of states with legalized sports betting. “The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association continues to oppose the expansion of off-reservation gaming, including the legalization of sport betting,” he wrote.
The seven casino-owning tribes in Minnesota join a group of unusual allies in sports gambling betting statements this season, including groups like Citizens Against Gambling Expansion, which concerns about the ill effects of gambling, such as dependency.
The tribes do not have a veto over non-tribal gaming, but their voices are influential, especially among DFLers like Gov. Tim Walz and the new House majority. Under federal law, states need to bargain in good faith to allow tribes to offer you the very same types of gambling that is legal off-reservation.
Until a U.S. Supreme Court decision last spring cleared the way for countries to provide sports betting similar to what is legal in Nevada casino gambling books, that legislation was not 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 give an increase to its fighting Atlantic City casinos, and had tried a series of legal moves to end the federal ban against sports gambling in all states except Nevada.
In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. wrote that Congress has the ability to pass laws to govern sports gambling itself. But when it decides not to, every state is free to do so, and several have done exactly that.
A draft bill circulated at the Minnesota capitol at the conclusion of the 2018 session but no formal bill was filed and no hearings were held. Supporters of the law, headed by Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Blaine, have been coordinating a bill for this session,.
Chamberlain, who is chair of the Senate Taxes Committee, was amazed and a little disappointed in the tribes’ place, which he discovered about through Twitter. “We met with them and while they are not always in alignment they’re clearly concerned about losing their economic foundation, the economic engine,” Chamberlain said. “We understand that. We’ve reassured them that we are not interested in harming that fascination or jeopardizing tribal compacts.”
State Sen. Roger Chamberlain
Courtesy of Senate Media Services
State Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Blaine, said mobile betting must be part of this state law since that’s where much of the gambling action is.
However, Chamberlain said he is optimistic that it remains subject to discussions, and he said he thinks it could 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 potential consumers and operators and players from getting involved in a totally safe and legal firm,” he said. “We hope to get into a place where everybody can agree and I believe we can.”
While it seems clear that tribes would be able to offer sports betting in their own casinos if it is made legal for non-tribal gambling, legal advisors note that sports gambling sets up some tough choices such as tribes. The primary issue is that betting on sports — on the outcomes of matches, on scores and other outcomes — is not especially rewarding for casinos. The other is that under national law, tribes can only offer gambling over the boundaries of reservations. This makes the most-promising facet of sports betting — distant betting online or through mobile devices — may be off limits to these, but not to non-tribal sports novels.
Chamberlain said cellular gambling must be a part of the state law because that’s where much of the gambling action is. Part of the rationale for legalizing it state by state would be to catch some of the bets now made lawfully.
“In this market and culture you need mobile access to become profitable,” 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 nearby. One possible solution for the tribes would be to declare the gambling takes place where a participant’s telephone is, but in which the computer server that processes the wager is located. That’s far from solved law, however.
“We can find our way round those issues and get it done,” Chamberlain said.
Vig is chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community of Minnesota, which possesses the Mystic Lake and Little Seven casinos, didn’t close the door on ultimate tribal interest in sport betting. He did, however, ask the country to move slowly.
“While there’s a desire by some to consider this issue during the current session, it seems that the general public interest would be best served first by careful study of sports gambling’s consequences within this nation, examination of other states’ experiences where sports betting gambling was legalized, and comprehensive consultation with the high number of stakeholders interested in it,” Vig wrote.
A spokesman for the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association said leaders were not available for interviews and that Vig’s letter are their sole statement on the problem.
State Rep. Laurie Halverson
State Rep. Laurie Halverson
The seat of the House committee that would consider any sports betting bills said the tribal institution’s letter does not alter her position on the problem. Rep. Laurie Halverson, DFL-Eagan, said that there are still no patrons within her caucus pushing a statement. Ever before the tribes made their position known, Halverson stated she intended to be careful and deliberate on the subject.
“I’ve yet to see language or have anything introduced,” she said.
But she expects legislation will surface, and that she wishes to possess at least an info hearing so lawmakers will understand the consequences and hear from both backers and opponents. “I believe we are all in learning style,” she explained. “When something is this brand new, that’s the legislative model generally. Things take time and we have to be deliberative about such significant modifications to Minnesota law.”
In a press conference Wednesday, Walz stated his basic position on the problem will be to legalize and regulate. But he said that should come only after a procedure for hearings and debate. “I expect adults to make adult decisions,” he said of gaming. “I also recognize that addiction comes in many forms, whether that’s alcohol, tobacco or cannabis or sports gambling and those can have social effects that are fairly catastrophic.
“If the Legislature chooses to take up that, we are definitely interested in working together to make it right,” Walz said.
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