Sports Betting Has Never Been so Close to Wisconsin
The city of Dubuque on the banks of the Mississippi in Iowa is a popular destination for the residents of Wisconsin. As a matter of fact, it has been for a while now. In the 1800s, the lead miners were flocking the area, and after WWII, people seeking work as manufacturers in John Deere started crossing the river.
As of lately, tourism has been the major reason to visit this lovely place. Hotel Julien, established in 1915 in downtown Dubuque, underwent a complete make-over through a $33 million renovation. A couple of blocks north, Millwork District is getting a reboot as well. Thirteen blocks of historic brick buildings are being transformed into modern housing, boutiques, a fancy hotel, and art galleries.
The Mississippi River Aquarium is attracting visitors since its opening in 2003 with a fascinating collection of alligators, paddlefish, and some bufflehead ducks. So there seems to be a lot going on in the Dubuque area.
The latest magnet draws the fans of Green Bay Packers and the Wisconsin Badgers, as sports betting became legal in the Hawkeye State. Wisconsinites don’t have to travel all the way to Vegas or place bets at dodgy offshore establishments anymore. A simple drive over the bridge and betting on professional or college football, as well as hockey and tennis is available.
According to Giorgio Mustica from Diamond Jo Casino, there is a learning period ahead, but they hope to get the hang of the business pretty quickly. The general manager of a sportsbook with FanDuel brand on it says that a sports fan can be guided through the process in no time. For the ones that are not sports fans, it takes a bit longer because they need to explain how specific lines and spreads work and what certain terms mean.
The Midwest sees a sportsbooks revolution, so to speak. It’s not only Iowa. Indiana and Illinois will open the sportsbooks later in 2019, and we hear about the realistic initiatives from Michigan and Minnesota, as well.
Nationwide, 13 states opted for the legalization of sports betting, and six are about to begin with the process. Experts say that this particular gambling activity could become legal in roughly 35 states in the next five years. The boost is a direct result of the decision to move the authority back to the states in 2018.
Meanwhile in Wisconsin
It appears that politicians on both sides are starting to realize that the legalization of gaming could bring a lot of benefits. We are witnessing real initiative as tax-generating revenue would be more than welcome. However, the road from an idea to a realistic possibility of placing an actual bet is very long and involves a series of measures.
The referendum for changing the constitution of the state could be organized, but only after the Senate and the Assembly approve the bill in two consecutive sessions. It would also mean that the tribal nations (11 in total) that currently operate 26 land-based casinos would expect re-negotiations of the compacts they have. Including sports betting into their business is prohibited by law at the moment. We can only assume that the lifting of the ban would leave them wanting a piece of the cake.
Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau issued a report in June and advised that even if the constitution did change, each compact would have to be negotiated again. Though the tribes showed no interest in sports betting up till now, part of their deal is that they hold exclusive rights to gaming in The Badger State. If the legislature allowed any gambling activity outside the tribal lands, the Native Americans could stop paying for the right to offer gaming activities exclusively. In numbers, the payment amounted to $53 million in 2018.
The Assembly Speaker from Wisconsin, Robin Vos, thinks that changing the constitution is a gigantic hurdle, but that he is not reluctant to consider it. At least that was his opinion when he gave an interview to Journal Times after the 2018 ruling by the Supreme Court.
There are voices that propose that the time may be just right to evaluate the current laws and apply modifications to improve them. Some Representatives believe that it is wise to introduce sports betting in Wisconsin while others advise against making hasty decisions. There is no doubt that the revenue would be beneficial.
Is Sports Betting That Lucrative?
On the other hand, the revenue that sports betting generates to the state may be exaggerated. Rhode Island, Mississippi, and even Nevada brought in half of what was expected as per the report from the Reference Bureau.
The tax for sports gaming revenues in Iowa is at 6.75%. State Senator Pam Jochum was the loudest advocate to change the state law to allow sports betting. Diamond Jo Casino and Q Casino are both located in her district of Dubuque.
She advised that the rise of illegal sports betting propelled her and her team to push the legislation as Iowa needed solid regulation in that domain. It is similar to playing online slots for real money on websites hosted by untrustworthy offshore companies. In other words, it is susceptible to fraud.
Iowa Gaming Association is now in charge of the activities. There have been opposing voices, saying that it makes access to vice easier and that the consequences are unpredictable.
One of those is Rose Blazinsky, who is the head of the Council of Problem Gambling in Wisconsin. She reported that 14,000 calls were made to their hotline, which is significantly more than the 3,500 they had in 1994. Giving access to gambling is not a good idea, according to Blazinsky, because more people are going to try it. A staggering 5% of the gamblers develop problems.
However, placing illegal bets with a local bookie or playing online slots for real money are not going anywhere, so why not take some control over such activities.
Q and Diamond Jo are both significant in size and will designate a special section just to sports betting. They estimate that it will bring only 5% of the income, but that it will attract a specific demographic group that remained elusive to the casinos.
It may sound surprising, but the average client of a casino in Iowa is a woman in her fifties. Sports betting should attract men from 20 to 30 who can be introduced to other gaming activities, such as slots or table games.
The possibilities that these new customers will bring are more important than what sports betting will bring in numbers. The officials from both casinos do not feel threatened by the potential legalization of sports betting in Wisconsin. They think that the competition will only make them better.