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Legal sports gambling in Wisconsin?

By Ben Rodgers

Last week the Supreme Court opened up the door to allow individual states the ability to legalize sports gambling.

It’s too early to know if this will be a good fit for the area. But with Green Bay as one of 32 cities with an NFL franchise, this debate is only starting.

The decision handed down on Monday by the highest court in the land was less about sports gambling and more about the federal government interfering with state politics.

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 that made sports betting illegal, with the exception of Las Vegas, was overturned.

“The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own,” the court wrote in its opinion. “Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not.”

Sports gambling is huge in America, more so than most people would probably like to admit.

Many reports have it listed as a $150 billion industry annually.

Have you ever paid for an NCAA March Madness bracket? What about numbers during the Super Bowl? How about putting $5 down on an NFL parlay card?

Those are all forms of sports gambling that broke the PASPA and still are considered illegal in Wisconsin, for now.

It’s also important to note that sports gambling can ruin lives.

The Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling averages 12,000 to 15,000 calls a year to its helpline (1-800-426-2535).

That may not seem like a lot, but these are the people who can’t control their gambling.

“By the time people call the helpline, very often they may be suicidal, they may have gotten themselves in legal trouble,” said Rose Blozinski, the council’s executive director. “Sixty-five percent of compulsive gamblers commit some type of crime to feed their gambling habit, they may have filed bankruptcy, they may have lost their families.”

Blozinski estimates 333,000 Wisconsinites are affected by gambling in some way, either with a gambling problem or compulsive gambling behaviors.

Just like eating fast food or drinking alcohol, gambling can be addictive. If not done in moderation, it can ruin lives.

But on the other side of the coin, this could open up a new revenue stream for Wisconsin.

The state could now tax all winning wagers and use the money to fund transportation infrastructure repairs, for one thing, a topic that will be up for discussion by the Legislature in January.

It could also mean a boon for local businesses. Could you imagine if every bar in the Stadium District had a legal sports book?

More people would stop by to watch the game and place a bet, which would in turn require more employees.

Wisconsin has an opportunity here to gain more money to fund items in the state budget in areas that have been hurting recently, while giving more people jobs.

However, gambling is a vice and it can be a very destructive one.

If our lawmakers decide to do anything, they will have to do it very carefully.

Sports gambling is not only illegal in Wisconsin, it’s prohibited by the Wisconsin Constitution, state law, and is not allowed under the state-tribal compacts.

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