Special Report: Could sports betting become legal in Wisconsin?

Special Report: Could sports betting become legal in Wisconsin?

WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- It's a great time to be a Wisconsin sports fan -- The Bucks are making a historic playoff run and the Brewers and Packers are led by MVPs. But, Wisconsin is behind when it comes to legislating sports gambling.

The American Gaming Association estimates illegal sports gambling is a $150 billion dollar industry.

Some states are trying to make a piece of that money but because of a variety of factors, Wisconsin is on the sidelines.

For decades, many fans have gambled on sports illegally but that's changing. Betting is now legal in several states. You can bet in person at sports books, even on your phone.

“To be able to do it over the phone with yelling screaming kids in the background, is normally a lot more convenient for me," said Mark Dickson, a Brewers fan.

You can also bet on more than just who wins the game.

“How many yards will Aaron Rodgers throw for? How many points will Giannis Antetokounmpo score tonight? How many will he score in a quarter?” said Adam Candee, Legal Sports Report.

Dozens of states are getting in on the action.

“We’re looking at more than half of U.S. states within the next five years likely having some sort of legal sports betting operation," said Candee.

Where does Wisconsin stack up? State Representative Tyler Vorpagel says Wisconsin's constitution prohibits gambling.

“That would be the biggest legislative hurdle, is passing it through two consecutive sessions of the legislature, and then having a statewide referendum,” said State Rep. Tyler Vorpagel, R-Plymouth.

The other option is to allow gambling at tribal casinos but Vorpagel says, in his experience, Tribes are not open to expanding state betting.

"They obviously have an interest in keeping things as the status quo.”

There are 25 gaming locations in Wisconsin, run by 11 different Tribes.

State records show they made a combined $1.23 billion dollars off gambling in 2017.

Through contractual obligations, they paid the state $53 million. The same contracts require allowing tribes to pull those payments if other casinos cut into profits.

“We’re seeing the Tribes are not really as eager to get into sports betting as a lot of other casinos and operators. Opening up those compacts leaves the Tribes vulnerable.”

Compacts could also force the state to pay $250 million dollars to Potawatomi if other casinos affect their bottom line.

Potawatomi said they wouldn't comment on the story. The President of the Ho-Chunk Nation says Tribes are still discussing the issue amongst themselves and have not begun negotiating with the state on new compacts. 

"We kind of learn to move cautiously, as we’re moving forward. And not wanting to ruin what we have now,” said Wilfrid Cleveland, Ho-Chunk Nation President. 

“I think it’s a regressive scenario because I think the people who can least afford to gamble are the ones gambling, and they ultimately have a problem later on in life,” said John Baltus, Brewers fan. 

New Jersey took in $375 million in sports bets during March, making about $31 million.

Oxford Economics estimates Wisconsin operations could make $340 million on sports gambling in a year.

Changing the state's constitution, however, is a difficult process. Both houses of the legislature need to pass the proposal before and after the next general election. Then, it needs to pass a voter referendum. 

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