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Sports betting bill would send cash to horse tracks

Newest version of sports betting bill would share tax revenue with the state's two racetracks, in lieu of letting their fans bet on other sports.

ST PAUL, Minn. — The fate of the sports betting bill this year may rest with how the legislation treats the state’s two horse racing tracks.

Republicans say they won’t support the current version because sports wagering would only be allowed in tribal casinos and through on-line apps operated by the tribes. They’re saying they won’t support it unless Canterbury Park and Running Aces are included.

But the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, or MIGA, opposes adding non-tribal tracks to the mix. Sen. Matt Klein Wednesday offered an amendment to his bill that would send part of the sports betting tax revenue to the tracks, in lieu of allowing them to host the new form of legal gambling.

“Those are like destination experiences for Minnesotans, much like going to the State Fair. Going to a racetrack like Canterbury Park is a family experience in Minnesota,” Sen. Klein explained.

“And they are telling us they can't really sustain their operations going forward. So, we're going to make sure part of these sports betting revenue goes to them to sustain them.”

Andy Platto, executive director of the tribal gambling group MIGA, told the Senate State and Local Government Committee his group has no objections to Sen. Klein’s proposal.

But the idea wasn’t warmly received by the tracks.

Randy Sampson, the CEO of Canterbury Park, said the revenue sharing Klein proposed should only be a temporary measure until the tracks get more fully involved in the sports betting arena.

“We believe it's in the best interest of the state for all the stakeholders to work together to make sports betting successful. Putting a cap on the revenues to horse racing industry does not provide the incentive needed for a collaborative approach.”

Democrats hold only a one-seat majority in the Senate. And one of them, Sen. John Marty of Roseville, is opposed to any expansion of gambling. That gives Republicans the opportunity to cast the deciding vote on sports betting.

Typically, the party in power doesn’t bring a bill to the floor if there aren’t enough votes lined up to pass it. But Klein said he’s willing to put it to a vote, to see how many Republicans would really vote against a bill that has so much popular support in the state.

The Senate State Government Committee tabled Klein’s bill Tuesday, to give senators a chance to ask more questions later in the process. But time is growing short. The session ends May 22.

Current state law allows gambling in the following ways:

  • Tribal casinos
  • MInnesota Lottery
  • Pari-mutuel betting in horse races
  • Licensed charitable gambling, which includes paper and electronic pull-tabs, paddle wheels, tip boards, bingo, and raffles.

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