GAMBLING IN WISCONSIN – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The gambling industry has spent millions of dollars to create an image of a family-friendly form of entertainment. Subtleties over time, like changing “gambling” to “gaming” and “get rich quick” to “rags-to-riches,” have altered the perspective of the American public and greatly aided in the normalization of gambling.
What we often fail to acknowledge is the fact that the gambling industry’s business model is built upon those who play to extinction, a.k.a. the addicts. The industry doesn’t make their vast profits off of those who are gambling on occasion as a form of entertainment, but rather, much like the tobacco industry and social media, they depend on addiction. This industry and our government know how harmful their products/services are, but they opt for profit over the well-being of their consumers.
The younger generations are not the brick-and-mortar casino goers. Their interests are mostly engaged in online activity, and the gambling industry knows it. The part of the brain that associates consequence to behavior is not fully developed until the age 25, making our youth easy prey. Couple that with the fact that sports betting (Daily Fantasy Sports and Sports Books) has never been more popular, and our kids are now prime targets for an addiction disaster.
The COVID-19 lockdowns dramatically increased people’s screen time, resulting in a bombardment of online gambling ads and dramatically increasing the risk of addiction. Gambling addiction is fairly easy to hide. Calls to gambling addiction hotlines have increased exponentially since the onset of online gambling and the pandemic.
On the other end of the spectrum are our senior citizens and the poor, who make up a significant number of casino goers and lottery players. Many casino patrons whittle away their life savings for “entertainment” while others frequent casinos (and purchase lottery tickets) to buy hope for a dollar – for the unlikely chance to quickly improve their economic status.
Including sports betting, the nearly 1,000 commercial casinos in the U.S. have raked in more than $44.15 billion in 2021, a new record, according to the American Gaming Assn. The previous record, set in 2019, was $43.65 billion. Governor Evers just this year amended the tribal compacts to allow online and in-person sports betting when onsite in their casinos.
Government’s role is to protect its citizens, yet its complicit partnership with gambling enterprises causes great harm to citizens. In order for government to win, citizens must lose. Yet, our government puts tax revenue above the well-being of people. Sound familiar?
OFF-RESERVATION CASINOS: KENOSHA AND BELOIT
- The first ever off-reservation casino was approved for Beloit in April of 2021 for the Ho Chunk Tribe. The Menominee Tribe, in a joint venture with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, is once again pursuing an off-reservation casino in Kenosha – more than 25% of profits will go to Florida.
- The Menominee Tribe is attempting to use the old application filed with the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to resurrect this proposal, which means they would avoid a new environmental impact study and deny citizens in Kenosha an opportunity to weigh in on the issue. This would leave Governor Evers as the sole decision maker.
- Governor Walker rejected the Kenosha Casino in 2015, after a comprehensive review of the potential economic impact of the Kenosha casino project showed that due to a competition clause in the current compacts, the state could be forced to pay out up to $500 million to other tribes.
- Urban casinos have a much different economic impact than rural casinos, and the local community loses control.
- Studies show that the Wisconsin casino market is already over-saturated; having a casino within 10 miles of home creates a 90% increase in the odds of someone becoming a pathological or problem gambler; and nearly 65% of all problem gamblers have committed a crime as result of their gambling problem.
- According to a panel study of Wisconsin Counties, violent crime increases 30% after the opening of a casino and arrests increase 50% in the community after the opening of a casino.
- Wisconsin has 25 on-reservation casinos throughout the state, leaving no one with more than a 2-hour drive.
DAILY FANTASY SPORTS
- WI State Constitution Prohibits Internet Gambling.
- Daily Fantasy Sports have a fundamentally different relationship to chance than do season-long fantasy sports leagues. Daily Fantasy Sports operates on a per-game basis. Therefore, on any given day an injury, a snowstorm, or a ball bouncing strangely could affect a Daily Fantasy Sports result. In this regard, placing a wager with a Daily Fantasy Sports operator is very similar to placing a bet with a bookmaker.
- The only way Daily Fantasy Sports can circumvent this prohibition without a constitutional amendment is by defining Daily Fantasy Sports as a game of skill rather than a game of chance.
- In two consecutive legislative sessions (2016 and 2017), legislation was introduced by republican legislators to legalize Daily Fantasy Sports in Wisconsin which is a form of online gambling. This proposed legislation will return in fall of 2021.
- If passed, this bill would legalize online gambling and represents the largest expansion of gambling in Wisconsin’s history.
The Debate over Skill vs. Chance
- Daily Fantasy Sports has all the necessary components of gambling: It has consideration (what the person pays/bets). It has a prize. And it has chance.
- Games of chance, like poker, often involve some amount of skill; but that doesn’t make betting on them legal per Wisconsin’s online gambling prohibition.
The Alleged Need for “Regulating” Daily Fantasy Sports
- The point of this Daily Fantasy Sports bill is to give the appearance of regulation and create the impression this is being done on behalf of consumers, and to create a path to legalize on-line gambling. However, no consumer protection groups are advocating for Daily Fantasy Sports. Only the industry itself is advocating for “legalizing” and “regulating,” a situation which should give any lawmaker pause.
- Lobbyists for the industry work hard to convince legislators about this “skill” idea, and that therefore the game needs to be “regulated” to protect consumers.
- The so-called “consumer protections” are toothless, in place solely to give the appearance that consumers are being protected. The bills favor the gambling interests who stand to benefit by setting up a structure of self-regulation.
- Restrictions were put on lottery advertising when the games were first legalized – the Wisconsin State Constitution clearly states: “The expenditure of public funds or of revenues derived from lottery operations to engage in promotional advertising of the Wisconsin state lottery is prohibited.”
- Yet, current advertising budget, which government officials coyly refer to as “product information” allocates $8.5M annually (increased from $7.5 M in 2017-18 Wisconsin State budget).
- In 2020, Wisconsinites spent $725 million on the lottery to yield an average tax credit of $184 per property owner.
- Research shows that here in Wisconsin, the highest per capita lottery sales are within the zip codes that have the lowest per capita income.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Join our statewide coalition against expanding gambling today! Visit CitizensAgainstGambling.com and sign our petitions.
- Contact your state Assembly Representative and State Senator and ask them not to support the legalization of Daily Fantasy Sports. To find your legislator and his/her contact information, visit http://legis.wisconsin.gov/ (home page: “Who Are My Legislators?”).
- Spread the word through your civic groups and churches.
- Write a letter to your newspaper’s editor about the negative impact of gambling on families and communities.
- Like us on Facebook – Citizens Against Expanded Gambling – and encourage others to do so.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.