Issue Briefing: Opposition to Gambling Expansion 

HF 778 (Stephenson)

Senate bill not introduced yet

The short version 

After several failed attempts, efforts to expand gambling are making progress this year. Key  House and Senate leaders support significant expansion – legalizing sports betting, daily fantasy  sports and mobile gaming – bringing gambling into every home, school and workplace in our  state. The House bill was introduced on March 8 and had its first hearing the next day. The  Senate bill should be released soon. We want legislators to hear concerns clearly and  repeatedly.

The long version 

These bills would expand our current lawful gambling to include sports betting and betting on  daily fantasy sports. And they’d allow mobile gaming, meaning people can bet 24 hours a day  from anywhere that has cell phone reception. This will certainly create significantly more  problem gamblers.

Minnesota allows gambling at age 18. Many states – including neighboring Iowa, Wisconsin  and North Dakota – allow bingo and purchase of lottery tickets at 18, but set a gambling age of  21 for casinos and other gambling. Research shows that gambling is especially addictive for young  gamblers who are attracted to the instant gratification and allure of easy money. The University of  Minnesota reports that college students are two to three times more likely to develop problem gambling than older adults. We shouldn’t consider ANY expansion of gambling unless we increase  the gambling age to 21 for any expanded gaming.  

Problem gambling impacts more than just the person gambling. It has significant social costs – family breakdown, mental health challenges, financial problems and a need for safety net  programs. Studies show that problem gamblers have the highest suicide rates of any addiction.

Our current laws provide access to treatment for problem gamblers, but the impacted family  members – coping with the devastating news of breach of trust, lost savings, possible

foreclosure, the primary breadwinner losing a job (and insurance benefits) and/or possible  criminal action – are only eligible for up to 12 hours of family counseling. We need to make  more family support available before we consider any expansion of gambling.  

Low income Minnesotans and persons of color are more likely to be drawn in by allure of  gambling. A 2020 Wilder Research study found that those with only a high school education or  GED were far more likely to become problem gamblers. Black Minnesotans were more than  twice as likely to become problem gamblers as White Minnesotans. To learn more about the  dangers of sports betting and its impact on low income populations, read this article from the  Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission:

How sports betting has increased predatory gambling across the U.S. - ERLC

Key points 

  • Expanding gambling has significant social costs. Advocates that portray this as simply  entertainment are ignoring the problems that expanded gambling (and significantly  expanded advertising that will follow) brings to our state.
  • In our faith communities, we’ve seen individuals and families impacted by problem  gambling already.
  • The temptation of 24 hour access to gambling is a bad idea – bad for individuals, bad for  families and bad for our communities. Even if some expansion is passed, oppose  remote access.
  • We shouldn’t consider any gambling expansion unless we raise the age limit for betting  – sports betting or daily fantasy sports shouldn’t be allowed until age 21.