The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Viva las wagers

As it stands right now, placing wagers of any sort on sporting events will never be legal in Wisconsin.

This isn’t because one party has a vendetta against sports betting. It’s not about the moral issue of integrity.

The above issues would be a factor if not for the fact that under a law signed in 1992, Wisconsin and 45 other states (including Minnesota) became a part of a ban on sports gambling for all states that did not have some form of sports betting already on the books. Only Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Delaware are exempt from this law.

A growing state deficit drove Delaware to add sports betting to its three state-run in 2009. However, the NCAA, MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL all screamed bloody murder about how this would damage the integrity of professional and amateur sports, resulting in Delaware only being allowed to run parlay wagers (multiple bets on the same ticket).

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New Jersey voters recently passed a referendum to legalize sports betting with a 65 — 35 percentile vote. A Nov. 9 article from the New York Post says casinos would generate an additional $225 million per year if it becomes legal to bet on sports in New Jersey.

None of this matters, because the dinosaur that is known as The Federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 also forbids states from legalizing sports betting on their own, which makes this referendum essentially a nonbinding poll unless Congress or the court system overturns PAPSA.

The aforementioned New York Post article quotes New Jersey Sen. Raymond Lesniak as saying, “New Jersey voters have sent Congress a message that its law, which has allowed sports betting in Las Vegas but not in Atlantic City, is unfair.”

And he’s absolutely right. The federal government should have no standing in deciding whether or not sports betting can be legal in any other state. If New Jersey wins their fight to allow sports betting, then all other states should pose the question on sports betting in the form of a referendum.

Here’s the kicker, though: The Wisconsin Constitution actually prohibits the state legislature from legalizing any form of gambling, except for, according to a Cal-Berkeley law thesis on the topic, “state lotteries, bingo and raffle games conducted by religious, charitable, service, fraternal or veteran’s organizations which are licensed by the state, and pari-mutuel betting as provided for by Wisconsin law.”

To further enforce this, the Wisconsin Legislature passed Chapter 945. Section 945.02 states that anyone who “makes a bet” or “conducts a lottery” that isn’t authorized by the state is “guilty of a Class B misdemeanor.”

So basically, if you run a March Madness bracket pool or bet somebody $10 that the Packers will go undefeated this season, you’re going to jail and getting a nice fine to go with it.

Furthermore, Section 945.03 implies that online gambling is illegal, stating that anyone who “uses a wire communication facility … for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of a bet or offer to bet,” is guilty of a Class E felony.

You are now aware that causing great bodily harm via battery, as well as burglary and/or robbery, is every bit as severe as placing a bet online, according to state law. But hey, at least we’re keeping those awful gamblers off the
streets, right?

The topic of cutting the state debt has sparked numerous controversies in Wisconsin. Anything the state government does these days is greeted with a barrage of partisan bickering. Legalizing sports betting may look like an impossible task, but it can be done with the help of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Adding sports betting to casinos across the state has the potential to add millions of dollars in tax revenue around the state. The concerns about legal gambling having a detrimental impact on sporting integrity are, in my opinion, absurd.

The owner of the Sacramento Kings, an NBA team, has the right idea. He has stated on several occasions that legalizing sports betting would not only help states on a financial matter; it would also increase the integrity of sports in the U.S. because betting would be regulated instead of being run by off-shore bookies.

It may not happen soon, but the debate for legalizing sports betting in Wisconsin could pick up steam if PAPSA gets overturned or repealed by the federal government. Hopefully, the Wisconsin government will reverse its stance on the issue before it gets left behind.







Kris Kotlarik is a senior social studies secondary education and print journalism double major and Staff Writer at The Spectator.

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