Editorial Calls Out Minnesota Lawmakers For Punting Legal Sports Betting Again

Posted By Derek Helling on March 2, 2021

While it doesn’t look like there will be any gambling expansion in the Land of 10,000 Lakes in 2021, that doesn’t mean Minnesotans are happy about it.

In fact, there’s evidence of that discontent in a recent Minnesota sports betting editorial.

The Duluth News Tribune editorial board recently criticized the state’s leadership for not moving on a sports betting legalization bill. In the opinion piece, the board points out exactly why Iowa sportsbook operators likely prefer the status quo.

Summing up the Minnesota sports betting editorial

In short, the argument is that the state government is essentially forfeiting tax revenue by punting on legalizing sports betting again this year. By extension, Minnesotans are not enjoying the benefits those dollars could provide.

“An opportunity to be seized — a sure bet, really, with Minnesota taxpayers the ones who would cash in — appears on its way to being missed once again in St. Paul.”

The op-ed goes on to detail the roadblocks for gambling expansion legislation. It puts most of the blame for that on tribal casino operators’ opposition to legal sports betting. However, it also cites MN legislators who owe their campaign funding to those tribal groups as obstacles as well.

The piece then shifts into estimates of how much the state could potentially reap from legal sports betting. That’s where the text goes awry to some degree.

The revenue estimate for the state assumes that all the wagering in Minnesota currently happening through illegal bookies or offshore websites would shift to the regulated market.

That’s simply not going to happen.

The piece also makes mention of Minnesotans, such as Rep. Pat Garofalo, crossing the southern Minnesota state line to use Iowa sports betting apps.

“… That includes Iowa, where parking lots at wagering points near its northern border fill up with Minnesota plates on NFL game days.”

Handle from out-of-state bettors is something that Iowans don’t want to see diminish.

Why out-of-state wagers are a win for Iowans

When a person who lives in another state spends money on taxable goods and/or services in Iowa, it’s a little bit better for the Hawkeye State than similar spending by residents. Those tax dollars aren’t coming out of an Iowan’s wallet.

It’s like bonus money for the state coffers. Additionally, it’s all handle for IA casinos and online sportsbooks, no matter where it’s from. It’s hard to say how much of the handle that Iowa sportsbooks take in comes from bettors who live in Minnesota, but this editorial points to that being a legitimate concern for the board.

Retail sportsbooks near the Minnesota border, such as Diamond Jo Worth, get a lot of traffic. The area around it isn’t densely populated, so it’s reasonable to assume that many patrons are from Minnesota.

Whether that’s a problem depends on your perspective. IA casino and sportsbook operators likely have a different view of this situation than the editorial board of the Duluth paper.

Photo by Jim Mone / AP
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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