Minnesota

Sports Betting in Minnesota

If you research the gambling history of the individual states you’ll notice that there are plenty of regional similarities. Minnesota is no different. Today, there’s a fair amount of gambling available to the citizens of the state and we got there in much the same way as a number of other states. The history of gambling in Minnesota goes back to the original native settlers but the beginning of regulation in the state started with the same proliferation of private lotteries as seen in many other states. There were dozens, if not hundreds, of privately run lotteries usually operating under the guise of ‘charity’ with many being downright crooked. This led to their elimination and specific regulatory language concerning charity ‘bingo and raffle type games’ was introduced back in 1945. Not long after, the then-popular mechanical slot machines that became popular during World War II were outlawed.

Here’s where Minnesota is a bit different. Although charity bingo and raffles type gaming is legal in many other states there’s none where it represents such a big deal as in Minnesota. Today, this type of game is a two billion dollar plus revenue generator. Much of the reason for that has been a light regulatory touch which allowed the scope of charity games to expand dramatically. The strong regulatory oversight comes in the licensing of the individual charities and the limits on their stakes. Outside of these provisos, however, there’s been a massive amount of innovation within this segment. The accepted forms of ‘charity gaming’ have expanded in include pull tab type games, electronic lottery and pull tab terminals and in the most recent iteration remote pull tabs (eg: tablet devices) will be allowed at football stadiums under state law. If you have a bit of free time and are interested in this topic it’s worth doing a Google search on ‘Minnesota charitable gaming’ to understand just how big this typically nondescript area of legalized gambling is in the state.

There has been some concern about the relatively small percentage of the revenues that end up in the coffers of non-profit organizations. In 2017, out of the $2 billion plus in revenue the sponsoring non profits received only $300 million. Some groups actually lose money by offering gambling if they fail to control overhead and account for taxes. Another interesting nuance of Minnesota charitable gambling—traditional paper pulltabs remain the primary revenue generator. In the current revenue figures they represent $1.5 billion of the just over $2 billion in sales. Electronic pulltab revenue is growing slowly but surely and that fact suggests that the future for the entire segment is optimistic.

The Minnesota State lottery began in 1972 and today offers a mix of ‘lotto games’ (draw games) including the major national jackpots such as Powerball and MegaMillions. Scratch games and ‘print-n-play’ instant win games are also offered. There’s also a ‘second chance’ raffle involving non-winning tickets. The online component of the Minnesota State Lottery is strictly informational with a retailer directory and archive of winning numbers.

Another interesting anomaly in Minnesota’s gaming adoption is the recency of adding legal parimutuel wagering. In many states, betting on horse racing was the earliest form of legal gambling. In Minnesota, it happened in 1983 with the state’s largest track—Canterbury Downs—opening in 1985. In 1991, ‘unbanked’ card games such as poker was legalized at Canterbury Downs. The same gaming mix is also available at the Running Aces Harness track. Also in the early 1980s, the first high stakes bingo parlors opened on Native American tribal lands. The bingo parlors would be the genesis of a long legal battle between the state government and native tribes.

The tribal gaming stakes were raised in 1986 when video gambling machines began to appear in reservation based casinos. In 1989, the battle ended when the state government signed compact agreements with 7 tribes permitting video gambling. Additionally, simulcast wagering on horse races also began at a variety of facilities. In 1991, the tribal gaming compact was expended to include blackjack. Tribal gaming is now big business in Minnesota with nearly 20 casinos offering slots, blackjack, bingo, electronic pulltabs, poker and simulcast betting. Although the Native American tribes have done much to expand the gambling options available to Minnesota residents they have in the process become a formidable political force. There’s been attempts to authorize a single land based casino for nearly a decade but opposition from the tribal casinos has kept it from happening.

Like many other states in the post PASPA US sports betting market Minnesota has taken tentative steps toward legalization. A draft bill was circulated in the Minnesota legislature earlier this year which would have authorized sports betting, created a new oversight body to administer it and enable mobile betting throughout the state. The legislative session adjourned without any action on the bill.

Sports Betting in Minneapolis

Minneapolis has a decent variety of gaming options though compared to many states it is somewhat unusual. Start with something that is an afterthought in most states—charity bingo and raffles gaming. It exists in many states but not like Minnesota. Nowhere is it such a huge business. Today, charity gaming in Minnesota is a two billion dollar plus revenue generator! Much of the reason for that has been a light regulatory touch which allowed the scope of charity games to expand dramatically. The strong regulatory oversight comes in the licensing of the individual charities and the limits on their stakes. Outside of these provisos, however, there’s been a massive amount of innovation within this segment. The accepted forms of ‘charity gaming’ have expanded in include pull tab type games, electronic lottery and pull tab terminals and in the most recent iteration remote pull tabs (eg: tablet devices) will be allowed at football stadiums under state law. There has been some rumbles about the small percentage that typically ends up going to the charity but given its size and scope it would be a surprise to see anyone try and outlaw it.

The Minnesota State lottery began in 1972 and today offers a mix of ‘lotto games’ (draw games) including the major national jackpots such as Powerball and MegaMillions. Scratch games and ‘print-n-play’ instant win games are also offered. There’s also a ‘second chance’ raffle involving non-winning tickets. The online component of the Minnesota State Lottery is strictly informational with a retailer directory and archive of winning numbers. Another interesting anomaly in Minnesota’s gaming adoption is the recency of adding legal parimutuel wagering. In many states, betting on horse racing was the earliest form of legal gambling. In Minnesota, it happened in 1983 with the state’s largest track—Canterbury Downs—opening in 1985 opening just outside of Minneapolis. In 1991, ‘unbanked’ card games such as poker was legalized at Canterbury Downs. The same gaming mix is also available at the Running Aces Harness track which is just North of the city.

As we’ve seen in so many other states, Native American gaming has been a primary catalyst for the growth of casino gambling in Minnesota with a good number of these properties ringing the Minneapolis metro area. The first high stakes bingo parlors opened on Native American tribal lands in the early 1980s. Initially, Minnesota was not the least bit receptive and the bingo parlors would be the genesis of a long legal battle between the state government and native tribes. By the end of the decade the ‘war’ was over and in 1989 the state government signed compact agreements with 7 tribes permitting video gambling. Additionally, simulcast wagering on horse races also began at a variety of facilities. In 1991, the tribal gaming compact was expended to include blackjack. Tribal gaming is now big business in Minnesota with nearly 20 casinos offering slots, blackjack, bingo, electronic pulltabs, poker and simulcast betting. The majority of these are within a three hour radius of Minneapolis. There is additional gaming available several hours away in Iowa, North Dakota and across the Canadian border in Ontario.

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