Big revenue expected in Milwaukee after Gov. Evers approves sports betting at Potawatomi casinos

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin sports fans will soon be able to legally bet on games at Milwaukee's Potawatomi Hotel and Casino after a historic agreement was announced Friday, Feb. 18.

Potawatomi says it will pave the way for the biggest sports book in the area by the end of the year once the plan gets final approval from the state within the next 45 days.

The general manager of a Milwaukee sports bar said fans are already finding unauthorized ways to bet on sports. But this agreement will regulate it, collect revenue, and even entice more people to give it a try.

Gabriel Burkhalter is the general manager of Who's on Third. He said, "Now people feel comfortable, now they feel like it's allowed. So now they're going to be coming in and betting on different things, maybe interested in other games."

Sports betting is already a big topic of conversation at the bar. Burkhalter said it's a Packers bar on football Sundays, but now fans are asking to watch other games, too, to keep track of their unauthorized action.

Burkhalter said, "You already hear about them betting through different websites, and coming in here just to check out their team and how they're doing."

Before, bettors were trying to get around the system. But now the new amended and extended gaming compact will allow the Potawatomi tribe to offer legal event wagering on sports and non-sports events.

Spokesperson Ryan Amundson said, "We're elated that Governor Evers has given us approval."

Amundson says Friday's announcement has been a long time coming, the result of a lot of negotiation between the tribe and the state.

Potawatomi shares revenue with city, county, and state, and Amundson says increased revenue from sports betting will help all those jurisdictions.

Potawatomi doesn't share revenue projections, but it could be a huge payday. The American Gaming Association says sports betting exploded in 2021. The $4.29 billion in revenue was a 177% jump from the year before.

Amundson said, "It's a form of gaming that's taking a foothold not only here in Wisconsin but throughout the country. So we are pleased that our guests will not have to travel to make that wager."

Burkhalter, the manager of the sports bar, says it will also help businesses. Instead of just popping in to check a score, he expects more people will stick around for the final, paying for food and drinks along the way. He said, "I think it's only going to be helpful. It's going to bring in more money, a lot more people are going to feel comfortable betting."

At this time, sports betting will be allowed onsite only. A remote component could come later.

The state and the tribe will negotiate the final rules for sports betting while they wait for final approval in the next 45 days.

Earlier Friday, Gov. Tony Evers and Chairman Ned Daniels Jr. of the Forest County Potawatomi announced they had signed a historic compact amendment allowing casinos and affiliate locations in Wisconsin operated by the Forest County Potawatomi to offer event wagering on sports and non-sports events.

The signed amendment was sent to the U.S. Department of Interior where it will undergo a 45-day review.

“I am glad for the good work of Chairman Daniels, the Forest County Potawatomi, and the folks at the Department of Administration to get this done so folks can enjoy sports and other event wagering in our state while benefitting the Tribe’s economic growth,” said Gov. Evers. “I look forward to continuing our partnership together to find new opportunities that support and bolster the Tribe’s success and our state’s success for years to come.”

“We appreciate Governor Evers and his Administration working with us in a government-to-government manner to provide our Tribe the tools needed to compete in the marketplace and giving us the business certainty to continue our investments in Milwaukee and throughout the state,” said Chairman Daniels.

According to a news release from Gov. Evers' office, this compact amendment comes shortly after Gov. Evers signed similar compacts with the Oneida Nation and the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin and will open the door for the Forest County Potawatomi to begin offering sports and event wagering at its two casinos and adjacent lands in the Menominee Valley and Forest County. The Forest County Potawatomi plans to open a sports book venue at the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino in Milwaukee by the end of 2022. In addition, the amendment extends the term of the current compact to 2061.

“The compact amendment is the result of extensive and productive negotiations with the Forest County Potawatomi Community,” said Department of Administration Secretary-designee Kathy Blumenfeld. “We are grateful for our continued partnership, and this successful negotiation will be a win-win for the state and the Tribe.”

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