When considering states that could swing the larger sentiment about legal sports betting in the USA, primary focus tends to land with California, Texas, Florida and New York, along with some other bigger markets. But with Wisconsin sports betting revenue now projected to shatter first-year projections, it's become clear they might serve as the ultimate example for other smaller states that have yet to legalize online or on-site gambling in 2022.
Some people will shrug this off. More than 30 states have now legalized sports betting in various forms, which means the approval rating for gambling has reached majority status. But there are still plenty of states that remain on the fence or outright against sports betting altogether—particularly throughout the south and southwest.
The general sentiment among these holdouts is that they don't have the sports betting market to justify constitutional amendments and opening the floodgates of an industry they've rejected for years on end. It isn't even just smaller or obscure markets that continue to resist legal sports betting; larger states like Texas, California and Florida, which repealed their own legal sports betting laws this past January, have yet to take the permanent.
However, sports betting in Wisconsin is fast becoming a model billboard for markets that don't think they need or have the equity to capitalize on legalized gambling. And we're about to explain why.
Wisconsin Sports Betting Revenue Off the Charts
Initial projections for opening-year Wisconsin sports betting revenue varied a great deal when the state first opened up their doors, both inside casinos and through online sportsbooks, at the start of 2022.
Many proposed Wisconsin stood to make somewhere in the low nine figures off tax revenue. Others wondered whether it would be less than nine figures. No one, though, predicted Wisconsin sports betting revenue in 2022 would eclipse the nine-figure marker with absolute ease.
And yet, that's exactly what they're about to do.
Since expanding their sports betting operations to include more casinos, online and brick-and-mortar sportsbooks have combined to take in more than $200 million per month from the Wisconsin market, according to GamblingSites.org. With only an exception here or there, that number has continued to rise almost each and every month. At present, in fact, Wisconsin is on track to accept nearly $3 billion in total bets for the entire calendar year.
When adjusting for how much the state will take from tax on sports betting profits, we can conservatively project that Wisconsin is looking at almost, if not more, than a quarter-billion dollars in additional revenue. That is money they can funnel to worthwhile causes in sectors such as education, construction, welfare and much more.
Maybe We Should Have Seen Wisconsin's Sports Betting Rise Coming
In hindsight, more experts and analysts probably should have anticipated a larger-than-life first year for Wisconsin sports betting. After all, the state is home to more than 20 casinos, which were taking in north of $2 billion of business per year prior to the legalization of sports betting.
Clearly, there was already a market for gambling. The approval of sports betting merely tacked on to it.
Wisconsin is also home to a handful of flagship professional sports franchises that drum up regular interest from prospective bettors. The Green Bay Packers are among the most prestigious clubs in the NFL, and the Milwaukee Bucks just competed for an NBA championship a little over a year ago. MLB's Milwaukee Brewers, meanwhile, are their own institution; they've been around forever.
It's at this juncture many will be reluctant to apply Wisconsin's success to holdout states such as Minnesota, Idaho, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and others. Not all of them have as many pro sports franchises or even collegiate programs to count on for built-in appeal. But that's not necessarily the point.
Wisconsin Sports Betting Revenue Will Be Noticed by Holdout States
The key to Wisconsin's success isn't just their footprint on professional sports. Granted, that certainly helps. And looking at the success of their market should definitely force places like California and Texas to rethink their own ambiguous to distasteful demeanor towards legal sports betting.
Still, Wisconsin sports betting revenue has been driven by two other factors: their casinos, and their willingness to let online operators set up shop within the state.
Every state has at least a singular casino in place. And if those casinos are given the license to accept bets on sports, it not only creates extra revenue through the sportsbook itself but by drawing in additional foot traffic to the casinos. People don't always chopper in to visit the sportsbook and leave; they tend to hang around and play table games or slots.
Welcoming online operators has also helped. For one, it gives Wisconsin a piece of a buy that's being served with or without their green light. No matter where you live, there are reputable operators from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks that will let you set up an account. As we've noted time and gain in this space, the refusal to legalize online sports betting doesn't actually stop it.
Beyond this, though, Wisconsin has also made it so commercial online sportsbooks must partner up with tribal casinos. That, again, is another way to maximize earnings and create jobs within the state. And if Wisconsin sports betting revenue winds up soaring past $250 million in pure profit during its first year by following this blueprint, you better believe states that have yet to legalize gambling will take notice.
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