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Minnesota Delegation Studies Sports Sports Betting in Iowa

Written by:
Gilbert Horowitz
Published on:
Sep/23/2019

Minnesota Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, led a delegation of three dozen state lawmakers, legislative staff, lobbyists and curious gawkers….to Iowa.

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The Hawkeye State recently legalized sports betting.  Sportsbooks almost immediately started cropping up in casinos located throughout Iowa.  Mobile sports betting is also becoming available.

Minnesota appears less willing to embrace sports betting. Garofalo's own party is against legalization as are the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party leaders who control the House. And the state tribes don't seem to want it either.  They exert control over most gaming in Minnesota.

Both the DFL House majority and the Senate Republicans have other priorities for the legislative session that begins in February — in an election year in which all 201 legislative seats will be on the ballot, writes Patrick Coolican of the Star Tribune.

"Iowa is well positioned due to Minnesota's lack of action. And you're going to see a steady increase in Minnesotans choosing to spend their entertainment dollars in Iowa as opposed to Minnesota," said Garofalo.

According to the Star Tribune, during the opening 17 days of legal sports betting in Iowa, sportsbooks took in a bit more than $8.5 million, shelled out a bit more than $2.1 million in winnings and paid $146,000 in taxes, according to a report of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

The Fanduel Sportsbook at Diamond Jo's is located just over the border from Minnesota.  A good number of the license plates in the parking lot were from Minnesota, according to Garofalo.

"We're one of the few states with a professional team in every league, and it feels like we're not moving forward with something that would be a natural fit," State Sen. Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove said.  She is the Senate co-author of sports betting legislation.

Senator Roger Chamberlain is on board with Garofalo. 

He wrote an opt-ed in the Minnesota Republican Caucus:

You should be able to place that bet right here in Minnesota. I have a bill that would make it legal.

Why do it?

Better question: why not? You work hard for your money, and if you want to place a little money in support of your favorite team, you shouldn’t have to drive to Iowa or use an international gambling app to do it. Sports wagering is good entertainment. It is a business and it will create jobs. As a comparison, there is little difference between sports wagering and betting on winners and losers in the stock or bond markets.

To paraphrase Vinny Magliulo, vice president of corporate relations for Las Vegas Dissemination Company, who has spent 38 years as a book maker: whether it’s sports or stocks, people have opinions, and they would like to put money behind those opinions.

By most measures, sports betting won’t be a cash cow for the state, but that’s OK. Nevada levies a 6.75% tax on the net after payout of prizes. If we place the tax in the wrong place or it is too high, few sports books will operate in Minnesota and/or people will simply go elsewhere to make wagers. Our goal should to collect only enough revenue to pay for the government oversight. Our bigger mission is giving Minnesotans more freedom and flexibility to have a little bit of fun with their own hard-earned money.

Inevitably, critics will say that sports betting isn’t important. Yes, I understand there are a number of serious matters to address. I assure you, we haven’t forgotten about the turmoil at the Department of Human Services or rampant fraud in our child care assistance program. Those issues will still be priorities, just like we will continue to work on lowering health care costs and providing a great education to our children.

Despite how it sometimes appears, the legislature can indeed walk and chew gum at the same time, and legalizing sports betting is plain common sense.

Legalizing sports betting should not be a problem. It is not an expansion of gambling, because it’s already happening. It is entertainment. It’s fun. It’s a business that will create jobs and be effectively regulated.

Twelve other states and Iowa got it done. Let’s make Minnesota next.

- GIlbert Horowitz, Gambling911.com

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