Wisconsin Sports Betting Allies Aim for 2020 But Face Issues

Wisconsin Sports Betting Allies Aim for 2020 But Face Issues

With 13 states and the District of Columbia making sports betting legal in their states since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports gambling last year, Wisconsin residents are wondering if their state might be next to take the legal sports betting plunge.

That’s especially true after football season started, with area favorites such as the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and the NCAA’s Wisconsin Badgers vying for their respective pigskin championship trophies. After all, there are no bigger sports seasons in the U.S. than those for NFL and college football, and there’s no busier time for American bettors either.

But while some Wisconsinites might be hoping for state lawmakers to start the legalization process soon, the road to legalizing sports betting in America's Dairyland won’t be as fast and easy as slicing up a few slivers of Wisconsin’s famous cheddar cheese.

Wisconsin’s Murky Path Toward Legal Sports Betting

First of all, a constitutional amendment would be required for the state to make sports betting legal, and that would require support from state lawmakers and voters. That means it would need to be approved by both the Assembly and Senate, then also by voters in a statewide referendum.

Either the Assembly or the Senate could pass a bill first, then the other legislative body, but either way a referendum would come last. So all the different stakeholders would have to agree on a concrete way forward. The path toward legal sports betting in Wisconsin is a tricky, multi-step process.

Tribal Groups Have Huge Stake in Sports Betting

Moreover, Wisconsin tribal interests would also have to be considered. Currently, 11 Wisconsin Indian tribes own and operate casinos in the state as authorized by the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.

Those tribes, according to a story by the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, contributed $53 million to the state in fiscal year 2017-18 for the right to exclusively offer gaming at local casinos. With so much money at stake, tribal groups aren’t likely to be all that interested in losing what amounts to a virtual monopoly on statewide casino gambling.

Wisconsin tribes could perhaps negotiate their gaming compacts to allow sports betting only on tribal grounds, but that process could also take some time to be sorted through. The political machinations of any state almost always include investors and companies who want to carve out their own pieces of lucrative market pies, and any such movement with Wisconsin sports betting is sure to draw plenty of interest.

RotoWire Adding CoverWire

Still, some see sports betting becoming legal in Wisconsin as only a matter of time. If that’s the case, companies such as Madison-based RotoWire, which is set to launch a sports gambling information service called CoverWire in the coming months, will be well-positioned to take their place among industry leaders in the state should Wisconsin indeed make sports betting legal.

RotoWire is already a popular fantasy sports company. Through CoverWire, it intends to provide free information that might be valuable to sports bettors across the Unites States such as injury reports, trades and statistics.

Bettors Traveling Outside Of State For Now

But until Packers and Badgers fans have a place within state borders to back their favorite teams, Wisconsin residents will have to travel to places where they can.

Dubuque, Iowa, where a FanDuel-branded sportsbook opened at Diamond Jo Casino just in time for football season this year, was just one of 18 Iowa casinos to start offering sports betting in August. Among bettors there were people such as former Packers great Antonio Freeman, who bet $86 that Green Bay would score more than 21.5 points during its first game of the season last week.

Freeman was there because he couldn't do the same yet in Wisconsin. He might have to keep making the trip over for the foreseeable future.

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