Fall is a great time for even the most casual of sports fans. New seasons of college football and the NFL are under way, and we are in the midst of the best part of the Major League Baseball season. New seasons for the NHL and NBA will be starting soon.

Many fans find an extra bit of enjoyment by placing a small wager on their favorite teams. But up until 2018, the only state where it was legal to gamble on sports was Nevada. That didn’t stop people, of course, but it certainly complicated things. Fortunately, in May 2018 the United States Supreme Court ruled that states could decide on their own if they wanted to allow sports betting.

More than 13 states have already jumped on board, and 20 more are considering it. Our neighbor to the south, Iowa, legalized sports betting effective Aug. 15. You can now drive to Diamond Jo’s Casino, 10 miles south of the Minnesota border, and legally place a bet on the Vikings.

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 be 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.

 

Sen. Roger Chamberlain can be reached at 651-926-1253 or sen.roger.chamberlain@senate.mn

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