By David Schuman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Two Minnesota lawmakers will introduce a bill this week to legalize sports betting.

Gambling on games is currently legal in almost half of the United States, including Iowa and South Dakota.

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Republican Rep. Patrick Garofalo, who is co-sponsoring the bill with Democratic Sen. Karla Bigham, says if Iowa can do it, why can’t Minnesota?

“Allow consumers to have a safe experience, have good consumer protections, and at the same time defunding some organized crime that might be taking place with that money,” Garofalo said.

He says revenue isn’t a primary motivator for legalizing, but he estimates sports gambling could bring in $40 million to $50 million a year to the state.

(credit: CBS)

“Americans like to bet, Americans like sports,” Garofalo said. “You combine them together, it’s a natural activity.”

At Mac’s Industrial Sports Bar in Minneapolis on Sunday, football fans expressed their support of the idea.

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“Sometimes I go to the casino and bet on cards, so what’s the difference between betting on cards and betting on players?” said Sawyer Merry of Minneapolis.

Terrance Lynch of Champlin has bet on games during the NFL playoffs with friends and using apps. He’s also driven to Iowa to place bets.

“Everywhere you go, more people are doing it,” Lynch said.

Still, Garofalo doesn’t think it’s likely the bill will pass.

“There’s just something with the government in the state of Minnesota that acts slower than most other states,” he said. “I’m not saying we had to be the first state to legalize this, but why do we always have to be the caboose?”

Garofalo urges people who support legal sports betting to call their elected officials.

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In response to the legislation being introduced, the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association said in a statement it “continues to oppose the expansion of off-reservation gambling, including the legalization of sports betting.”

David Schuman