Wisconsin Weighing the Options for Sports Betting

The start of the NFL season has brought with it a new interest throughout the United States due to the fact that many residents can legally place wagers on their favorite teams for the first time. With an increase in sportsbooks at casinos throughout the Midwest, as well as the establishment of popular sports betting sites in neighboring states, the state of Wisconsin is feeling the pressure to follow suit.

At the start of the NFL season this past weekend, residents of Wisconsin were able to cross the Mississippi River into Dubuque, Iowa to place their wagers on the Packers, as well as other NFL teams. After the Supreme Court’s decision in 2018 to give states the right to legalize gambling, 13 states have legalized sports betting and 35 states could push for legalization in the next five years, as reported by the Madison State Journal.

Sports Betting Throughout the Midwest

Iowa’s Diamond Jo Casino, located just outside of Dubuque, is one of the many casinos throughout the country that now offers a sportsbook for those interested in placing wagers on NFL games, as well as other sports. Bettors previously had to fly to Las Vegas or place their bets through a bookie or offshore sportsbook, now they just need $5 and transportation to the Diamond Jo Casino, whose sportsbook is run by popular daily fantasy sports provider FanDuel.

In addition to the sports betting options in Iowa, a number of other sports wagering opportunities have presented themselves in the Midwest. Just a week before the NFL season kicked off, Indiana opened its sportsbooks, and Illinois will be doing the same before the end of the year. Michigan and Minnesota legislators are also pushing to legalize sports gambling in their states as well.

Despite the rate at which sports betting is spreading throughout the country, the state of Wisconsin has yet to take definitive steps toward legalization. Throughout the United States, sports gambling has shown that it can be successful in bringing in significant amounts of money in the states where it has been legalized. Delaware has brought in over $7 million in taxes since legalization, while Pennsylvania and New Jersey have brought in $8 million and $28 million respectively. So, what’s the hold up in Wisconsin?

Obstacles and Timetable for Legalization

Representative Tyler Vorpagel believes that the legalization of sports betting in the state of Wisconsin could be beneficial for the state as a whole, as he told NBC Green Bay. Vorpagel was responsible for the introduction of the Daily Fantasy Sports bill, but the bill never reached an assembly vote. Despite Vorpagels efforts, there are still many who oppose the suggestion that Wisconsin should legalize sports betting. Organizations like Citizens Against Gambling believe that the legalization would come at the expense of residents, who may fall victim to large gambling companies who try to take advantage of addictive gambling behaviors.

A realistic timetable for the legalization of sports betting within the state of Wisconsin would suggest that the process could take years. The idea needs for first be approved by the Assembly and the Senate in two consecutive session, which would then lead to a referendum that would allow for an amendment to the state’s constitution. An alternative option for sports betting in the state of Wisconsin would be through tribal casinos, which are already operating under a gaming compact in the state.

If the state chose to take the longer route, the tribal nations that are currently operating 26 casinos within the state of Wisconsin could be affected and may push to renegotiate their existing compact to allow them to offer sports gambling anyway. There is some concern that the legalization of sports betting in the state would stop payments to the state from these tribes, due to the fact that they would no longer have the exclusive right to offer gambling in the state. This is concerning considering the state received $53 million from the tribes in the past year.

Lingering Concerns

To some, the benefits of legalizing sport betting in Wisconsin are clear. However, many of these benefits are still in question. While the taxation of legal sports betting will certainly bring money into the state, there is some concern over the projected revenue. Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia have all brought in half or less than half of what they expected from the legalization of sports betting.

Proponents of the push for legalization suggest that sports betting is already taking place illegally within the state of Wisconsin; the legalization and regulation of this betting would only benefit the state and its residents. The concern is that this legalization would make betting more available, making it dangerous for residents who may be suffering from gambling addiction. Although sports betting has been legalized in other areas of the country, there is still much debate about the rules and regulations of such an initiative.

For the time being, residents of Wisconsin will have to settle with crossing the Mississippi River or into neighboring states in order to place any wagers on their favorite NFL teams.

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