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iGaming slow to catch on even as sports betting industry grows

iGaming slow to catch on even as sports betting industry grows
iGaming slow to catch on even as sports betting industry grows 03:27

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The South Carolina Gamecocks are the new women's college basketball champions. Purdue and UConn will face off for the Men's NCAA Championship on Monday. Billions of dollars have already been wagered this college basketball post-season.  

The American Gaming Association estimates $2.72 billion will be wagered during March Madness. That's nearly twice the amount of this year's Super Bowl. 

"It's kind of fun. It gives you an adrenaline rush," said Robert Santana, a casual sports better. 

"It makes the games fun, you know?" said another. "If you don't have anything on a game, and maybe you throw 10 bucks on a game you're not interested in, and all of a sudden, you're watching the game." 

"It's evident that millions of Americans are migrating from illegal offshore marketplaces into legal sports books," said Cait DeBaun with the AGA. "That generates tax dollars for communities and goes to important needs in each state." 

What has not grown as fast 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 stepping foot in a brick-and-mortar casino. 

DaBaun said states miss out on about $4 billion of annual tax revenue to the illegal iGaming market. 

"Americans wagered $340 billion with illegal iGaming websites on an annual basis, and that's a concern not only for the protection of consumers that come with a legal, regulated marketplace," she said. 

"Illinois started to look at legalizing online casinos, which would again bring online poker, online roulette, live dealer products," said iGaming attorney Jeff Ifrah.

Ifrah specializes in online gaming and also founded a trade group that educates lawmakers on iGaming. 

Illinois has introduced a bill to legalize online gaming, but it has not gained much traction. 

"It's certainly an area that could bring new revenue to Illinois," Ifrah said. "We are talking tax revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars." 

He said some land-based casino operators are concerned about lost revenue if people aren't actually playing in traditional casinos. 

 A study Ifrah commissioned debunked that theory. 

"I am somebody who has had over 12 years now gambling free," said Elizabeth Thielen, senior director at NIcasa Behavioral Health Services. 

She said she has struggled with problem gambling. Now, she is a licensed counselor specializing in gambling disorder. She also works to educate college athletes on the risks of gambling. 

"This is the first time that I've seen it's sports better after sports better after sports better. It used to be a very small part of our practice, and now it's becoming a very large part of the practice," she said. 

Thielen said the ease and accessibility of placing a bet on your phone has contributed to the number of problem gamblers she treats. That is why she says there is concern over the potential expansion of online gaming. 

"I don't think online iGaming should be even a consideration because young people are being impacted, and let's remember this is a potentially fatal condition," she said. 

The State of Illinois said from July to February of this year, more than 14,000 calls have been placed to the state help hotline compared to just 1100 during the same time frame four years ago. 

"Gambling disorder is something that is affecting so many people, and they are suffering in silence," said Thielen. "I know what that felt like. It was very lonely. It's confusing and hurtful."

Anyone struggling with gambling or who just wants to find out about additional resources can log onto or call the national hotline at 1-800-GAMBLER.

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