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With the arrival of the popular football season, many Wisconsin residents want to find a fun location to bet on their beloved Green Bay Packers and the state’s favorite college, the Wisconsin Badgers.
But for those fans in Wisconsin looking to place a small wager, the closest location is in Iowa as that state just opened their doors to legal sports gambling in time for football.
Iowa followed recent legalization in states like Indiana with Illinois opening its doors to sportsbooks soon on the horizon. Experts believe that Michigan and Minnesota could be next with proposals in motion for a vote later this year.
But why is Wisconsin dragging their feet as the states around them enjoy increasing tax revenue?
Although several states are getting the jump on Wisconsin in the legal sports betting game, the Badger State continues to find itself caught in a mess of red tape and differing opinions.
For the measure to pass, it would first need to be approved by the state’s Assembly and Senate in back-to-back sessions, and then voters would need to support the measure in a statewide referendum.
And as if that process doesn’t set the stage for a few years of negotiations, Wisconsin’s 11 tribal nations that are in charge of the 26 casinos found in the state would need to renegotiate their compacts to allow sports betting.
“Alternatively, absent a change in the state constitution or statutes, if a tribe wanted to offer sports betting at its gambling facilities, the tribe would have to renegotiate its compact with the state,” according to a report issued in June by the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau.
Another factor that legislators will have to consider with the tribal nations is in the last fiscal year, the casinos brought in over $53 million to the state’s coffers.
If non-tribal businesses were allowed to offer sports betting, the tribes would undoubtedly look to stop that annual payment to the state for gambling exclusivity.
As it stands, the biggest hurdle to a lengthy process is the state’s constitutional restrictions.
Both major political parties in the state’s legislation admit that the only way to speed up the process is by changing the laws, something that they might be hesitant to do because of potential long-term ramifications.
Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, told the Wisconsin State Journal that “it may be an appropriate time for the state to comprehensively evaluate our laws and weigh if further modification is necessary.”
Republican representative Tyler Vorpagel acknowledges that watching revenue escape to states like Iowa is unacceptable to the economic health of Wisconsin, but he admits that there is no clear path to legalization in the state.
“I’m all for it. I don’t see a problem with it,” Vorpagel said. “I would much rather keep that revenue in the state.”
In the end, the only thing that could legitimately speed up the legalization process is the revenue figures that neighboring states began to report allowing the state to realize how much money they are missing each year.
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