The tribes that own and operate casinos across Minnesota say they support efforts to legalize sports betting in the state, a sign that a major expansion of for-profit gambling could happen this year.

The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association said Monday that the group and its member tribal nations support legislation to authorize sports betting at brick-and-mortar locations and online, "and believe tribes are best positioned to offer this new market to the state's consumers."

Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, said he consulted with Minnesota's 11 tribal nations, professional sports teams, universities and experts on problem gambling to craft a bill that the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee will hear Tuesday.

Stephenson, who chairs the committee, said his is the first of at least six committees expected to take up the measure in the House.

"It's been a long road to get to this point, and there's a long road in front of us," Stephenson said Monday at a news conference. "But we've got a lot of momentum, we've got a lot of support across the state. I can comfortably say that the stakeholders that I've talked to are interested in seeing this happen, and happen this year."

The state has 22 gaming compacts with its federally recognized tribes, which in the past have opposed legalizing sports betting. But the House bill — like its Senate counterpart — would give the tribes control over Minnesota's sports betting market.

Both bipartisan bills would legalize in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and online gaming through vendors that the tribes oversee. The Senate proposal would also allow in-person betting at racetracks — a difference that chief sponsor Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, criticized Monday.

"I welcome the Democrats to the table, and we'll work together to write legislation that can get this done," Chamberlain said in a statement. "However, the offer in its current form will not give the consumer a good product. We need to expand the options for consumers to have the best possible experience."

Minnesota is surrounded by states that have already legalized sports betting. In 2021, Americans set a commercial sports betting record of more than $57 billion, according to the American Gaming Association (AGA), an industry advocacy group.

As in other states, the bills before the Minnesota Legislature would create a revenue source by taxing sports betting. The House bill would direct taxes from mobile sports betting profits to regulation, addressing problem gambling and funding youth sports and other programming "with particular emphasis on communities experiencing high levels of juvenile crime," Stephenson said.

The details of the Senate bill are still being hammered out, including where the tax revenue would go.

In both chambers, proponents say Minnesotans are already betting on sports — either in neighboring states, or illegally.

"It's a good day in Minnesota to show some progress on transitioning Minnesota from the black market of unregulated activity to a regulated market with consumer transparency, consumer protections, as well as defunding organized crime and money laundering," said Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington.

"This is a very positive first step — no-one should have any qualms about this."

Still, gambling opponents — whose concerns range from addiction and consumer protection to religious objections — have said they anticipate pushback. In Wisconsin, which recently legalized sports betting, Citizens Against Expanded Gambling founder Lorri Pickens said legislators made a similar argument that the state needed to get in line with others already on board.

"From a personal level, I don't necessarily oppose gambling — I just don't like government being involved in it and making money from it," Pickens said.

"What happens is it's an increase in revenue, they don't have to cut spending, they don't have to raise taxes, but eventually those revenues do decline, and then we all pay for it."