Wisconsin gambling laws regulate an expansive tribal casino industry. The state’s lottery is over 30 years old, while it has been a part of the Powerball multistate lottery association for exactly 30 years. The state has over 9,000 charitable gambling organizations regulated by the Office of Charitable Gaming. Most midwestern states have a developed gambling industry, but Wisconsin’s gaming sector is better developed than most. At the same time, several key areas remain unregulated — including the online gambling niche.
Most of Wisconsin’s gambling laws focus on the casino industry. Wisconsin is home to some of the largest Native American tribes in the United States, including the Ojibwe and Potawatomi, the Oneida Nation, the St. Croix Chippewa, the Ho-Chunk, the Menominee, and the Dakota Sioux. With such representation, it is no surprise that the state has a large number of tribal casinos. The large number of land-based casinos means online gambling won’t be embraced anytime soon, while the tribal aspect to Wisconsin’s gambling interests means sports betting legalization will be complicated. Still, Wisconsin is a pro-gambling state.
Laws That Pertain to Wisconsin Gambling
Wisconsin has a complex approach to gambling law. Clearly, its government is familiar with and sympathetic to gambling. At the same time, it makes little distinction between a game of chance and a game of skill, as the examples below will prove. As with most states with a substantial gambling industry, Wisconsin’s lawmakers spent a lot of time devising anti-illegal gambling statutes.
While individuals who gamble illegally face misdemeanor charges, those who operate illegal games face stiff fines and long punishments. “Commercial gambling” is a Class I felony — with a lot of different activities falling under the category of commercial gambling. All that means that online gamblers face little blow-back for their activities, but anyone caught operating an illegal gambling website in Wisconsin faces punishment.
What is a Bet in Wisconsin?
“Bet.” A bet is a bargain in which the parties agree that, dependent upon chance even though accompanied by some skill, one stands to win or lose something of value specified in the agreement.
A bet is defined as a “bargain parties agree” to win or lose something of value based on a game of chance. Even if the game of chance has a degree of skill (poker, fantasy sports), then it is a bet. This law was applied in a famous case in which a Wisconsin judge ruled that poker is a game of skill, but state law still made it illegal because it had a degree of chance.
The case was brought by Steve Verrett, chairman of the Poker Players Alliance chapter in Wisconsin, and Mark Kroon, owner of the Players Sports Bar in Madison. Mr. Kroon wanted to host poker events at his bar, but was barred by local authorities from doing so. Circuit Court Judge Richard Niess Judge Niess called poker a “rich topic”, because of the mathematical approach a player can take to the game. Citing the skill required to consistently win, Judge Niess showed considerable sympathy for the poker players’ case. He even called poker part of the “American fabric”.
Despite that, Judge Niess ruled against Verrett and Kroon. Judge Niess said, “I’ve got to say that poker is such a rich topic on so many levels. It’s as much a part of the American fabric, I think, as baseball and apple pie. But having said that, I can’t ignore the law here, and the law unfortunately, to use a poker analogy, is a stacked deck against the plaintiffs here.”
In ruling against the card players, Richard Niess cited a 1964 Wisconsin case, State v. Morrissy, which involved an attempt by a convicted poker player to overturn his conviction. Instead, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that poker was gambling. Since the 1964 Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that poker is gambling, then Judge Niess did the same.
Gambling. Whoever does any of the following is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor:
(1) Makes a bet; or
(2) Enters or remains in a gambling place with intent to make a bet, to participate in a lottery, or to play a gambling machine; or
(3) Conducts a lottery, or with intent to conduct a lottery, possesses facilities to do so.
Luckily, most forms of gambling are a class B misdemeanor, which means that players face a much lower set of penalties if caught gambling illegally. The same cannot be said for those who organize commercial gambling for illegal purposes.
Commercial gambling. (1m) Whoever intentionally does any of the following is engaged in commercial gambling and, except as provided in sub. (2m), is guilty of a Class I felony:
(a) Participates in the earnings of or for gain operates or permits the operation of a gambling place; or
(b) For gain, receives, records or forwards a bet or offer to bet or, with intent to receive, record or forward a bet or offer to bet, possesses facilities to do so; or
(c) For gain, becomes a custodian of anything of value bet or offered to be bet; or
(d) Conducts a lottery where both the consideration and the prize are money, or with intent to conduct such a lottery, possesses facilities to do so; or
(e) Sets up for use for the purpose of gambling or collects the proceeds of any gambling machine; or
(f) For gain, maintains in this state any record, paraphernalia, tickets, certificates, bills, slip, token, paper, writing or other device used, or to be used, or adapted, devised or designed for use in gambling; or
(g) For gain, uses a wire communication facility for the transmission or receipt of information assisting in the placing of a bet or offer to bet on any sporting event or contest, or 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.
The Wisconsin statute punishes 7 different types of commercial gambling operations, including owning wire communication facilities for bets, operating illegal lotteries, owning an illegal gambling den (with equipment), working for an illegal gambling den, collecting the proceeds of illegal gambling, or maintains records of bets. The list covers a wide range of possibilities, including Internet sweepstakes cafes, online gambling sites, illegal bookmakers (bookies), and many land-based gambling operations.
Section 945.01. Is Social Gaming Legal in Wisconsin?
This particular section bans what is called social gaming: Gambling is “a bargain in which the parties agree that, dependent upon chance even though accompanied by some skill, one stands to win or lose something of value specified in the agreement.”
Poker nights and casino nights are banned. Social gaming is not legal even if a person has a charitable gambling license. Charitable gaming allows bingo, Calendar Raffles, Duck Raffles, March Madness Brackets, and Super Bowl Boards. Wisconsin has no special law to make such gaming legal, so private poker nights and casino nights would not be legal. Those organizing such events would be subject to fine and jail terms.
Gambling is legal in the State of Wisconsin, but it is restricted to a small number of license holders. Tribal gaming authorities like the Ho-Chunk and the Potawatomi are key interests in the state. Several casinos began as tribal bingo venues back in the 1980s and early 1990s, which explains why Wisconsin’s charitable bingo industry (while existent) is not as large as in other midwestern states.
The Wisconsin Lottery is well-entrenched, beginning in 1988. Wisconsin joined the Powerball association (1989) during the time it was still called Lotto America — it didn’t change its name until 1992. That makes Wisconsin one of the early innovators in the lottery industry. The same cannot be said of the latest wave of gambling expansion, including online poker, online casinos, mobile gambling, and sports betting. Gambling is legal in Wisconsin, but only in limited areas.
Wisconsin Online Poker Laws
Online poker exists in a gray area in Wisconsin. The state government has never legalized, regulated, licensed, and taxed online poker. At the same time, Wisconsin officials have no history of prosecuting online poker players and has taken no steps to block the domains of unlicensed offshore online card sites. No player ever has been prosecuted by the state of Wisconsin for online gambling. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future, so players should know their state and local laws before gambling online.
Experts are divided on whether Wisconsin will legalize online gambling in the coming years. State lawmakers will respond to Wisconsin’s many tribal casino operators, who will lobby politicians anytime a vote is imminent. Any major changes to Wisconsin gambling laws would require the tribes to renegotiate their gaming compacts. Because that’s a long and difficult process that carries with it some risk, we do not see Wisconsin legalizing online poker or online casinos in the near future.
Given the fact the US Justice Department changed the Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion on the legality of online casinos and poker rooms in January 2019, one major reason to legalize iPoker does not exist at the moment. Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey are members of the Multi-State Internet Gambling Association (MSIGA) — the interstate poker compact. Until now, they have shared poker player liquidity in order to increase prize pools. Pennsylvania was expected to join MSIGA in 2019 or 2020.
Under the current DOJ opinion, interstate online poker and online casinos violate federal law. The MSIGA is the main casualty of the January 2019 change of DOJ opinion. If Wisconsin had legalized online poker last year and joined the MSIGA, along with Pennsylvania it would have created an association with 31 million potential poker players. The interstate poker compact would have had a combined population larger than countries like Australia and almost the size of Canada’s population. The potential revenue stream would have been huge, but the federal ban on interstate online poker makes that impossible for now.
No. Sports betting is not legal in Wisconsin. Furthermore, it’s not likely to become legal in the near future. The state constitution of Wisconsin specifically prohibits sports betting, so the process of legalization would be complex. The Assembly and the Senate each would have to pass a bill in two consecutive sessions. Then voters would have to approve an amendment to the Wisconsin constitution in a statewide vote.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) as a “huge hurdle”. While Vos said he is “open minded to talk about it [sports betting]”, he left Wisconsin residents under no illusions about the “long process“. Vos told The Journal Times, “I like the idea that 50 states get to make their own decision based on elected officials, who are closer to the people, than members of Congress.”
Vos added, “The [US Supreme Court decision] has almost zero impact on Wisconsin as far as changing anything tomorrow. It’s a long process if it would ever happen in Wisconsin. That’s why I don’t think anything will change any time soon.”
State Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said that the legislature should look at the feasibility of sports betting legalization. Barca added, “Given the substantial interest and increasingly common nature of activities ranging from fantasy sports to office ‘March Madness’ pools, it may be an appropriate time for the state to comprehensively evaluate our laws and weigh if further modification is necessary.”
Peter Barca urged a cautious, systematic approach to any sports betting legalization process: “While there appears to be a growing interest in expanding legal opportunities for sports-related gaming, the state should act carefully and thoughtfully as we consider changes as a result of the Supreme Court action. Any change should involve a broad coalition of citizens and civic and law enforcement in the debate on the appropriate approach for our state at this time.”
Daily fantasy sports exists as an unregulated gaming activity in Wisconsin. While the legislature has taken no steps to legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports, the Wisconsin attorney general also has never taken steps to block or prosecute DFS operators. Therefore, FanDuel, DraftKings, Fantasy Draft, and most other DFS sites accept real money play from residents of Wisconsin.
Yes. Wisconsin has 27 land-based casinos. Some began as bingo parlors, but have expanded over the decades to become large casino resorts. Several Wisconsin tribes have multiple land-based casinos in the state. The tribes also hope to expand their operations in the coming years. Here is a list of the twenty-seven Wisconsin casinos.
|City||Name Of Casino||Address||Phone Number||Details|
|Baraboo||Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells||S3214 County Road BD, Baraboo, Wisconsin 53913-9405||(608) 356-6210||1,100 Gaming Machines, 10 Poker Tables, 28 Gaming Tables, 600 Bingo Seats, Race Book|
|Bayfield||Legendary Waters Resort and Casino||37600 Onigaming Drive, Bayfield, Wisconsin 54814||(715) 779-3712||260 Gaming Machines, 1 Poker Table, 5 Gaming Tables, 500 Bingo Seats|
|Black River Falls||Ho-Chunk Gaming Black River Falls||W9010 Wisconsin Highway 54 East, Black River Falls, Wisconsin 54615-5476||(715) 284-9098||750 Gaming Machines, 8 Poker and Gaming Tables, 480 Bingo Seats|
|Bowler||North Star Mohican Casino Resort||W12180 County Road A, Bowler, Wisconsin 54416-9401||(715) 787-3110||1,200 Gaming Machines, 2 Poker Tables, 14 Gaming Tables, 360 Bingo Seats|
|Carter||Potawatomi Carter Casino Hotel||618 State Highway 32, Carter, Wisconsin 54566-9193||(715) 473-2021||530 Gaming Machines, 3 Poker Tables, 4 Gaming Tables, 250 Bingo Seats|
|Crandon||Mole Lake Casino Lodge & Conference Center||3084 State Highway 55, Crandon, Wisconsin 54520-8878||(715) 478-7557||260 Gaming Machines, 4 Poker and Gaming Tables, 300 Bingo Seats|
|Danbury||Danbury Community Center||7530 Rivers Meet Road, Danbury, Wisconsin 54830||(715) 656-3227||N/A|
|Danbury||St. Croix Casino Danbury||30222 Highway 35, Danbury, Wisconsin 54830||(6715) 656-3178||488 Gaming Machines, 12 Poker and Gaming Tables|
|Green Bay||Onieda Casino||2020 Airport Drive, Highway 172, Green Bay, Wisconsin 54313||(920) 494-4500||978 Gaming Machines, 8 Poker Tables, 25 Gaming Tables, 738 Bingo Seats|
|Green Bay||Onieda Casino Travel Center||5939 Old 29 Drive, Green Bay, Wisconsin 54313||(920) 865-7919||107 Gaming Machines|
|Green Bay||Onieda IMAC Casino||2100 Airport Drive, Highway 172, Green Bay, Wisconsin 54313||(920) 494-4500||411 Gaming Machines, 738 Bingo Seats, Race Book|
|Green Bay||Onieda Mason Street Casino||2522 West Mason Street, Green Bay, Wisconsin 54303-4837||(920) 494-4500||784 Gaming Machines|
|Green Bay||Onieda One-Stop Packerland||3120 South Packerland Drive, Green Bay, Wisconsin 54313||(920) 496-5601||93 Gaming Machines|
|Hayward||Grindstone Creek Casino||13394 West Trepania Road, Hayward, Wisconsin 54843-2186||(715) 634-2430||88 Gaming Machines|
|Hayward||Sevenwinds Casino, Lodge & Conference Center||13767 West County Road B, Hayward, Wisconsin 54843-4184||(715) 634-5643||628 Gaming Machines, 5 Poker Tables, 8 Gaming Tables|
|Keshena||Menominee Casino Resort||277 Highway 47 North, Keshena, Wisconsin 54135||(715) 799-3600||762 Gaming Machines, 2 Poker Tables, 9 Gaming Tables, 220 Bingo Seats|
|Keshena||Thunderbird Casino||West 106 County Road VV, Keshena, Wisconsin 54135||(715) 799-6539||N/A|
|Lac Du Flambeau||Lake of the Torches Bingo||424 Little Pines Road, Lac Du Flambeau, Wisconsin 54538||(715) 588-2194||450 Bingo Seats|
|Lac Du Flambeau||Lake of the TorchesResort Casino||510 Old Abe Road, Lac Du Flambeau, Wisconsin 54538-9680||(715) 588-7070||817 Gaming Machines, 9 Poker and Gaming Tables|
|Madison||Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison||4002 Evan Acres Road, Madison, Wisconsin 53718-6813||(608) 223-9576||1,240 Gaming Machines|
|Milwaukee||Potawatomi Hotel & Casino||1721 West Canal Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233-2662||(414) 645-6888||2,500 Gaming Machines, 20 Poker Tables, 98 Gaming Tables, 1,354 Bingo Seats|
|Nekoosa||Ho-Chunk Gaming Nekoosa||949 County Road G, Nekoosa, Wisconsin 54457-9773||(715) 886-4560||600 Gaming Machines, 12 Poker and Gaming Tables|
|Odanah||Bad River Lodge & Casino||73370 Highway 2, Odanah, Wisconsin 54861||(715) 682-7121||402 Gaming Machines, 6 Poker and Gaming Tables|
|Tomah||Ho-Chunk Gaming Tomah||27867 Highway 21, Tomah, Wisconsin 54660||(866) 880-9822||100 Gaming Machines|
|Turtle Lake||St. Croix Casino Turtle Lake||777 US Highway 8/63, Turtle Lake, Wisconsin 54889-8890||(715) 986-4777||1,083 Gaming Machines, 10 Poker Tables, 32 Gaming Tables|
|Webster||St. Croix Casino Hertel||4348 State Road 70, Webster, Wisconsin 54893-9249||(715) 349-5658||150 Gaming Machines|
|Wittenburg||Ho-Chunk Gaming Wittenburg||N7198 US Highway 45, Wittenburg, Wisconsin 54499-8568||(715) 253-4400||978 Gaming Machines, 8 Poker Tables, 25 Gaming Tables. 738 Bingo Seats|
No, though pari-mutuel wagering and simulcasting is legal in Wisconsin. The legislature legalized simulcasting in 1987 to bolster the pari-mutuel racetrack industry. The law allowed bets on horse, dog, and snowmobile races, though greyhound racing was the only live pari-mutuel racing which took place in the state. Despite the simulcasting law in 1987, none of Wisconsin’s dog tracks could sustain business.
Dairyland Greyhound Park was the last dog track when it closed in 2009 after years of financial losses. Thus, Wisconsin has legal pari-mutuel betting and the right to simulcast races from other states, but has no operating race tracks.
Yes. Several of Wisconsin’s tribal casinos have simulcasting and off-track betting facilities. The Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee has its own off-track betting facility. The casino’s OTB room has 115 televisions, 87 carrels, betting terminals, and a self-service station. The OTB Room has a smoke-free environment, as well as an adjacent smoking room. The OTB pays track odds and offer drink service.
Other Wisconsin casinos have their own OTB service. Read through our list of casinos above (and the games they offer) for a comprehensive list of off-track betting facilities.
Yes. The Office of Charitable Gaming, which is a subdivision of the Division of Gaming, oversees over 9,000 charitable gambling organizations which hold raffles and 450 charitable bingo associations. The Office of Charitable Gaming says over 7,500 organizations hold over 10,500 licenses to hold raffles. The types of raffles include Calendar Raffles, Duck Raffles, March Madness Brackets, and Super Bowl Boards.
In a Duck Raffle, participants place a piece of paper with their information on a rubber duck, which is lowered into a body of water with all other participants’ ducks (all the same size and shape). The duck which crosses the finish line first wins.
In a Calendar Raffle, people pay a price to sign up on a particular date on a calendar. Prizes are drawn each day to determine who wins which prize. The Office of Charitable Gaming states, “Wisconsin raffle laws define a Calendar Raffle as raffle for which a drawing is held and a prize awarded on each date specified in a calendar,” then adds, “Calendars may be a single month or up to 12 months and you may list prizes and draw winners every day, every other day, weekly, biweekly, or monthly.”
Most Americans are familiar with March Madness Brackets and Super Bowl Boards. At the beginning of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament each year, people fill out a March Madness Bracket where they predict who wins each game in the tournament. The one with the most correct guesses wins the bracket pool. Super Bowl Boards tend to be simpler, as they predict the last digit in the score for both Super Bowl teams at the end of each quarter during that year’s Super Bowl.
|City||Name Of Casino||Address||Phone Number||Details|
|Oak Creek||Classic Lanes||7501 South Howell Avenue, Oak Creek, Wisconsin 53154-2111||(414) 764-1120||350 Bingo Seats|
|Racine||Flat Iron Mall Bingo||1661 Douglas Avenue, Racine, Wisconsin 53404-2765||(262) 637-7291||N/A|
Wisconsin has no legal allowance for social games. People wanting to host a poker night or casino night are warned not to do so. These events would be considered illegal poker games under Wisconsin law. You could be prosecuted for operating an illegal gambling den.
Online social casino gaming is legal, so long as the players do not engage in real money gambling. The usual list of free-to-play social casino websites are available. Lake of the Torches Resort Casino in Lac du Flambeau is tied to Play4Fun, the social casino from Mohegan Sun. The MyVegas app from MGM Resorts offers a similar gaming experience for online casino gamers in most states, but is not tied to any Wisconsin casinos.
Social gaming sites like Slotomania, Double Down Casino, Zynga Poker, and Big Fish Games are available for those who like Facebook gaming. Each allows play on your favorite social media sites, as well as in a downloadable gaming app on Google Play, Apple Apps Store, and Amazon. Games like mobile slots and poker are available.