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Decision 2022, elections, Steele County
Candidates respond to legal sports betting question
Kay Fate, Staff Writer

In an effort to keep you, our readers, well-informed and abreast of relevant issues, today is the fourth in a series of questions we are asking all of Steele County’s candidates for state office.

We want voters to know where each candidate stands on the issues in order to make their best decision at the ballot box.

Each week, we’ll ask the candidates a new question. They will all receive the same question, be given a word limit and a deadline of four days to answer. We’ll publish their answers the following Wednesday; responses may be edited for length.

The series will continue through Nov. 2, the last Wednesday before the Nov. 8 general election.

If a candidate doesn’t respond, we’ll note that.

This week, we’re asking about gambling; specifically, sports betting:

Though some would say we live in the land of sports heartbreaks, Minnesota lawmakers will likely take up the question of legalizing sports betting again this season. Last year started with a promising bipartisan push, and alignment with the state's gaming tribes -- but still stalled, after a Senate committee added licenses for two horse racing tracks to the bill. The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association objected to that addition.

If the point is more about bringing the industry into a regulated market than it is about tax revenue, would you support making sports betting legal? 

The word limit was 200 words.

We advise you to ignore the R or DFL behind each name and reflect only on the answers. You might be surprised to find more common ground than you expected. An (i) indicates the incumbent candidate, though with this spring’s redistricting, the district numbers may not align with the seat they’re seeking.


Question of the Week:

Do you support legalizing sports betting?


Minnesota House District 19B

Abdulahi Ali Osman – DFL, of Owatonna:

No response

John Petersburg – R (i-24A), of Waseca:

No response


Minnesota House District 23A

Peggy Bennett – R (i-27A), of Albert Lea:

Sports betting is already legalized in some form in the states surrounding Minnesota, as well as many other states in the U.S. Some states allow only in-person “brick and mortar” betting, while others also allow online options like mobile apps. For those of us who live close to the Iowa border, all one must do is drive a few miles south, park just over the border, and use a mobile app to place a bet – or go a few miles farther to visit the casino. I find other issues a much higher priority – like families struggling to pay for groceries and gas under high inflation, supporting our police, and holding criminals accountable for the rampant crime we are experiencing in many areas of our state. However, if a sports betting bill comes up for a vote, it will have my support if it’s a balanced and fair compromise between Minnesota’s tribes (who retain control of most gambling in our state), horse racetracks, and local bars and restaurants, and charities like VFWs and American Legions.


Mary Hinnenkamp – DFL, of Albert Lea:

Sports betting is an area with which I have had little experience. My one memorable experience occurred in 1973 when I was a VISTA volunteer in Kentucky. My husband, some friends, and I borrowed a friend's car and went to the Kentucky Derby. This was the year Secretariat won. I was there, paid for the cheap infield ticket, drank a mint julep, got a sunburn, and lost $20. This hardly qualifies me as any sort of expert. I am a little uncomfortable with the expansion of sports betting. I have a nephew who works at a Minnesota casino, and he has told me some horror stories of people who have lost their homes and ruined their lives with gambling. I had a brother-in-law who put great strains on his finances and his marriage with a gambling problem. If the point of a bill was to regulate sports betting rather than to promote or expand its usage, I would consider supporting it. But I would need more time and information before I could speak with confidence on this issue.


Minnesota House District 23B


Patricia Mueller – R (i-27B), of Austin:

Sports betting is one of those issues that has evolved with our smartphones. Gambling used to be limited to a time and space. Now anyone can log onto their phones and use countless apps to bet or gamble on pretty much any competitive event. The fact is, sports betting is pervasive. If we legalize sports betting, we have to be wise. Currently, Minnesota Tribes have authority over our casinos on their Tribal land. To legalize sports betting that mainly happens with the aid of technology rather than in brick and mortar buildings, there needs to be a balance and benefit to both Tribes and Minnesota. The original sports betting bill that was brought to the House last term felt imbalanced with most of the authority and profit going to the Tribes. Legislators need to deliberate and debate every angle of this issue knowing that gambling addictions are skyrocketing among high school students, so any type of legalization must include education and funding to combat this. Overall, while I do believe sports betting will become legal in the future, lawmakers must look beyond the revenue that could be gained and remember the societal impact that families are already struggling to control.


Tom Stiehm – DFL, of Austin:

I do support legalized sports betting. Many of our citizens now travel to surrounding states to gamble. We need to keep them, and the tax revenues, home.




Minnesota Senate District 19



Kate Falvey – DFL, of Faribault:

No response


John Jasinksi – R (i-24), of Faribault:

Sports wagering is one of the top issues I hear about from constituents, and the feedback is overwhelming that they want it legalized. The reality is that it’s already happening, and it’s already legal in neighboring states. Minnesota is getting left behind. It’s time to legalize sports wagering and give the state a chance to capture the revenue that we are losing to our neighbors. But we have to do it the right way. That means creating a healthy market that gives the tribes, the local racetracks, and hopefully even some local nonprofits or bars and restaurants a chance to participate. We need to provide as many options as we can so consumers can get the best product possible. The Senate had a bill this year that would have accomplished exactly what we need. It would have legalized sports wagering for Minnesotans at tribal casinos and racetracks, as well as online gaming. I will keep working on that bill next year. It’s time to get it done.



Minnesota Senate District 23


Gene Dornink – R (i-27), of Brownsdale:

Legalizing sports betting has garnered a lot of attention in recent months. Now that Wisconsin has legalized sports betting, Minnesota is the only state in our region without a legal option. We know sports betting is already happening and it comes with some risks, but most people find it an enjoyable pastime. If we can create a healthy market that gives tribal nations, race tracks, and local nonprofits, bars, and restaurants the opportunity to participate fairly and safely. We started taking a serious look at it this last session, and I support additional work to find the best solution that protects consumers in a competitive and regulated market. I also believe we should utilize the revenue stream from sports betting to prevent and help those struggling with gambling addiction. These changes do take time to find agreement and compromise, and I believe that we can find a workable solution for Minnesotans very soon.


Lisa Hanson – R, of Hayward:

No response


Brandon Lawhead – DFL, of Austin:

Yes, I would make sports betting legal. However, I think it is critical that treatment and awareness of gambling addiction be addressed, as well.


Next week’s question

Minnesota’s climate is changing; the state has warmed one to three degrees (F) in the last century. Floods are becoming more frequent, and ice cover on lakes is forming later and melting sooner. In the coming decades, these trends are likely to continue. Rising temperatures may interfere with winter recreation, extend the growing season, change the composition of trees in the North Woods, and increase water pollution problems in lakes and rivers. Working on it has been a bipartisan issue: In May 2007, Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed the Next Generation Energy Act into law. It commits the state to developing a climate change action plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2025, and 80% by 2050. The reductions must occur throughout the economy.


What do you think of the state’s efforts to combat climate change? What are you willing to support in order to effect more change, either environmentally or economically? (250-word limit)

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