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Gas tax considerations and sports betting key topics in WTIP legislative update
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Gas tax considerations and sports betting key topics in WTIP legislative update

The lead sponsor of a House bill to legalize sports betting in Minnesota said Monday that he’s confident that the state’s Native American tribes will drop their longstanding opposition and let it become law because it would put them in control.

Democratic Rep. Zack Stephenson, of Coon Rapids, said he’s met in recent months with leaders of all 11 of Minnesota’s Ojibwe and Dakota bands to develop a “Minnesota-specific model,” and that he would not be pressing forward now unless he was comfortable that they’ll support it in the end, the Associated Press reports.

Under the current bill, the state would get just a 10% cut of the tribes’ net profits from online betting. Stephenson estimated it could be around $20 million a year, with 40% going to programs to counter problem gambling; 40% to youth sports, particularly in communities experiencing high levels of juvenile crime; and 20% for regulating the new industry to protect consumers and to ensure that betting doesn’t influence what happens on the playing field.

Opposition by tribal governments that depend on casinos for much of their revenues has blocked efforts in the past to legalize sports betting in Minnesota.

A statement from the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, which represents 10 tribal nations, including the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, was notable for not opposing the bill outright, but withholding approval until the details are nailed down.

District 3A Rep. Rob Ecklund said during a March 10 interview on WTIP that he supports the legislation to allow sports betting in Minnesota. Ecklund said he did not hear directly from anyone in Grand Portage or Bois Forte about the legislation being considered, but had heard support through lobbyists who work with the bands.

WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs spoke with Ecklund about this topic and other local, state and regional news during the March 10 update. Other topics discussed include funding for Soil and Water Conservation Districts across the state, the possibility of temporarily halting the state’s gas tax and issues related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Listen to the full interview in the audio below.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.