iGaming is slow to catch on despite the growth of the sports betting industry

CHICAGO (CBS)– The South Carolina Gamecocks are the new champions of women’s college basketball. Purdue and UConn will meet for the NCAA men’s championship on Monday. Billions of dollars have already been bet on this college basketball postseason.

The American Gaming Association estimates that $2.72 billion will be wagered during March Madness. That’s almost double the amount from this year’s Super Bowl.

“It’s kind of fun. It gives you an adrenaline rush,” said Robert Santana, a casual athlete.

“It makes the games fun, you know?” said another. “If you have nothing on a game, and maybe you spend 10 bucks on a game you don’t care about, and all of a sudden, you’re watching the game.”

“It is clear that millions of Americans are migrating from illegal offshore markets to legal sports books,” said Cait DeBaun of the AGA. “That generates tax dollars for communities and goes toward important needs in every state.”

What has not grown as quickly is iGaming. So far, only a handful of states have legalized it, allowing users to play online slots and casino table games from the comfort of their homes without ever setting foot in a land-based casino.

DaBaun said states lose about $4 billion in annual tax revenue due to the illegal iGaming market.

“Americans bet $340 billion on illegal iGaming websites annually, and that’s a concern not only for the consumer protections that come with a legal and regulated market,” he said.

“Illinois began considering legalizing online casinos, which would again bring online poker, online roulette and live dealer products,” said iGaming attorney Jeff Ifrah.

Ifrah specializes in online gaming and also founded a trade group that educates policymakers about iGaming.

Illinois has introduced a bill to legalize online gaming, but it hasn’t gained much support.

“It’s certainly an area that could generate new revenue for Illinois,” Ifrah said. “We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue.”

He said some land-based casino operators are worried about losing revenue if people don’t play at brick-and-mortar casinos.

A study commissioned by Ifrah debunked that theory.

“I’m someone who has been playing free for over 12 years,” said Elizabeth Thielen, senior director at NIcasa Behavioral Health Services.

He said he has had problems with gambling. She is now a licensed counselor specializing in gambling disorders. She also works to educate college athletes about the risks of gambling.

“This is the first time I’ve seen sports get better after sports, better after sports. It used to be a very small part of our practice, and now it’s becoming a very big part of our practice,” he said.

Thielen said the ease and accessibility of placing a bet on your phone has contributed to the number of problem gamblers he treats. That’s why he says there is concern about the possible expansion of online gaming.

“I don’t think online electronic gaming should even be considered because young people are being affected, and let’s remember that this is a potentially fatal condition,” he said.

The state of Illinois said that from July to February of this year, more than 14,000 calls were made to the state’s help hotline compared to just 1,100 during the same period four years ago.

“Gaming disorder is something that affects a lot of people and they suffer from it in silence,” Thielen said. “I know what that felt like. It was very lonely. It’s confusing and painful.”

Anyone struggling with gambling or simply wanting information on additional resources can log on to areyoureallytaining.com or call the national hotline at 1-800-GAMBLER.

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