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As state lawmaker seeks stakeholder support, Minn. tribal gaming official downplays benefits of sports betting

Minnesota Rep. Pat Garofalo of Farmington on Thursday, March 17, 2016, speaking on the floor of the state House. Don Davis / Forum News Service file photo

BISMARCK — The head of the organization representing Minnesota tribal gaming interests downplayed the potential benefits of sports betting this week, a month after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to legalize the operations.

But John McCarthy, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, said they're still studying the issue.

"The proponents of sports betting are touting it as a panacea, this is the end-all of state budget woes," he said Tuesday, June 12. "That isn't the case. Sports betting (has) somewhat of a limited profit margin."

Last month's ruling that declared the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act unconstitutional came too late in Minnesota's legislative session for lawmakers to act. But Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, plans to introduce legislation next session as long as there's support from various stakeholders.

"There has to be bipartisan support because there's definitely going to be bipartisan opposition," he said. "If we're able to get the stakeholders and achieve consensus, then we'll see it happen."

The PASPA prohibited all but four states from "authorizing or licensing sports betting in any form," the American Gaming Association wrote in a court brief that called the law a "failed" policy. The AGA estimated Americans bet more than $150 billion illegally per year on U.S. sporting events.

"I'm for Minnesota getting a share of the profits from what's already going on," Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said, according to the Star Tribune.

Minnesota state gambling taxes totaled $63.6 million in fiscal year 2017, according to the state's Gambling Control Board.

McCarthy raised several concerns about sports betting, however, such as the potential for online gambling taking away from the tribes' brick-and-mortar operations.

"We haven't really embraced it at this point," he said. "There's a concern about the fallout of what comes with sports betting that we have to look at."

Other states, meanwhile, are taking advantage of the court ruling. The governor of New Jersey, the state that challenged the federal prohibition at the U.S. Supreme Court, signed legislation Monday allowing sports betting at the state's casinos and racetracks.

"Every day that goes by that we don't reach an agreement ... it costs the professional sports teams money, it costs the tribal casinos money and it costs the state money," Garofalo said. "No one benefits by doing nothing."

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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