Thousands of Minnesotans blocked from sports betting during NCAA Tournament

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Minnesotans really, really wanted to bet through online sportsbooks during the opening rounds of the NCAA March Madness tournaments.

According to Fluence Media, GeoComply, a geolocation compliance company, reported more than 86,700 attempts from Minnesota to access legal online sportsbooks in other states beginning March 21 through the end of the month.

The majority of attempts (61 percent) were from Minnesotans attempting to access legal online sportsbooks in Iowa.

More than one million attempts last year

GeoComply blocked all attempts from Minnesotans to access the legal online sportsbook apps in neighboring states. Despite Minnesota having no legislation on the books to legalize sports betting, the company reported that there are more than 100,000 online sports betting user accounts currently registered in the state.

The recent rash in activity for the NCAA March Madness tournament was no different than other major sporting events in the state.

During 2024 Super Bowl weekend, GeoComply conducted more than 31,000 geolocation checks from devices located in the North Star State trying to access legal online sportsbooks in other states. It was a 17% increase over the number of checks from the 2023 Super Bowl.

Similarly, 62 percent of users attempted to access legal online sportsbooks from books in Iowa.

Earlier this year, GeoComply reported there were more than 1.6 million attempts from devices located in the state attempting to access legal sportsbooks in other states last year.

Three bills pending in legislature

Minnesota lawmakers are currently considering three potential bills to legalize sports betting in the state.

Rep. Zack Stephenson's (DFL-35A) bill, HF 2000, and Sen. Matt Klein's (DFL-53) sports betting bill, SF 1949, are companion pieces that both legalize Minnesota sports betting, but offer differing elements to their legislation.

Both HF 2000 and SF 1949 seek to legalize retail and online sports betting for Minnesota state tribes. The bills give tribes sports betting exclusivity, allowing each to have a retail sportsbook location and one digital skin to offer online sports betting.

The following tribes would be eligible to offer retail and/or online sports betting if bills are approved:

  • Bois Forte Band of Chippewa
  • Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • Grand Portage Band of Chippewa
  • Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
  • Lower Sioux Indian Community
  • Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
  • Prairie Island Indian Community
  • Red Lake Nation
  • Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
  • Upper Sioux Community
  • White Earth Nation

However, both pieces of legislation contain differing gaming elements among their pages. Stephenson successfully amended HF 2000 in committee to allow for the legalization of daily fantasy sports (Minnesota is a gray state for DFS) and added $40 million in tax relief for Minnesota charitable organizations.

Klein's bill, SF 1949, was heavily amended in committee. The Minnesota Senate Commerce and Consumer committee approved an amendment to prohibit in-game sports betting in the bill. Proposed by Sen. Jordan Rasmusson (R-9), the amendment aims to allow regulators to take a "product safety approach" and add common sense tools to "mitigate some of the harms that can come from problem gaming."

No state with legalized sports betting has a similar prohibition.

Klein further amended his bill by increasing its tax rate from 10 to 20 percent, pushing through alterations to the sports betting tax revenue distribution, and introducing revisions to how promotions and free bets are deducted by licensed sports betting operators.

Finally, a third bill, introduced in the Senate today by Sen. John Marty (DFL-40), will also legalize sports betting for Minnesota tribes.

Marty's bill, SF 5330, will award licenses through a competitive bidding process, set the state sports betting tax rate at a minimum of 40 percent of gross revenue, and earmark 75 percent of sports betting tax revenues to combat problem gaming in the state.

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