Minnesota has taken its first steps towards legalizing retail and online sports betting for its tribal casinos.

The Minnesota House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee approved bill HF778 by a vote of 14-4. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL-Coon Rapids), will legalize in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and create up to two master online sports betting licenses for state tribes. The 11 Minnesota tribes will have control over the state’s online sports betting and the minimum age to participate in sports betting is listed at 18 in the bill.

Legalize online and retail sports betting

The bill is still in its infancy and will next be sent to the House State Government Finance and Elections Committee where it is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, March 15. It’s still a long way from a House vote.

“This legislation will bring about the most significant change to Minnesota’s gaming laws in many years,” Stephenson said in a statement. “State lawmakers in the Minnesota House have crafted a thoughtful bill based on respectful consultation with sovereign tribal nations, professional sports teams, experts in problem gaming, and many other stakeholders. This is the year we get sports betting done in Minnesota.”

Generated tax revenue will go to three specific areas. Twenty percent will go to enforcement, to ensure gaming is fair and doesn’t effect Minnesota sporting events; 40% will go to the Department of Human Services to combat problem gaming; and 40% will provide grants to youth sports teams in areas with high juvenile crime.

Master online sports betting licenses

In addition to legalizing retail sports betting for tribal casinos, the bill will allow up to two “master mobile sports betting licenses,” valid for 20 years, to organizations comprised of two or more Minnesota Indian Tribes. One license will be granted to an organization with Indian Tribes located in the north of the state while the second license will go to tribes in the south.

Each tribe in a licensed organization will be able to partner with an online sportsbook company to operate their sportsbook app.

There are 11 federally recognized tribes in Minnesota. Four Dakota Tribes have reservations south and west of Minneapolis and St. Paul, while seven Ojibwe/Chippewa reservations are located north of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The tribes own and operate 19 casinos in the state.

The following tribes will be eligible to offer retail and/or online sports betting if the bill is approved:

  • Bois Forte Band of Chippewa
  • Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • Grand Portage Band of Chippewa
  • Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
  • Lower Sioux Indian Community
  • Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
  • Prairie Island Indian Community
  • Red Lake Nation
  • Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
  • Upper Sioux Community
  • White Earth Nation

Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) is sponsoring the bill’s companion (SF574) in the Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee.