The Wisconsin gambling industry used to revolve around horse and dog racing, but with all the racetracks going out of business, it now leans on the local tribal casinos instead.
Wisconsin is home to 11 federally-recognized Indian tribes. When the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed in 1988, the local authorities didn’t have any doubts about signing tribal-state gambling compacts with them.
Wisconsin Gambling Law Summary
Gambling in Wisconsin is defined as a “bargain in which parties agree, dependent upon chance even though accompanied by some skill, one stands to win or lose something of value specified in the agreement.” In practical terms, Wisconsin judges are supposed to follow a “predominance test” and weigh the importance of skill against the influence of luck to determine whether a specific contest is permissible. If a contest is deemed unlawful, the act of placing a bet or even entering a gambling establishment or site with the intent to place a bet constitutes a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
All gambling-related matters are covered in Wisconsin Statutes sections 945.01 et seq. and 562.001 et seq. The minimum gambling age is 18 for bingo and the lottery and 21 for casinos.
Online Gambling in Wisconsin
Wisconsin doesn’t have any internet-specific gambling regulations, but the general definitions are broad enough to cover most forms of iGaming. Thus, engaging in online play via offshore sites is not advised in this state.
Participating in illegal gambling within the borders of Wisconsin is considered a misdemeanor, according to Section 945 of Wisconsin code. Nevertheless, the state definition of gaming doesn’t specifically mention the internet or online games, so many people believe that this alone is enough to protect them from prosecution.
At this point, it’s impossible to say whether this opinion is true or not, as the issue of the legality of online gambling hasn’t been tackled in a Wisconsin court yet. The truth is that local law enforcement doesn’t waste time and resources on trying to punish individual players, so in all likelihood, the problem mentioned above will remain theoretical for a long time.
The 11 Wisconsin tribes currently operate 22 casinos. Some of the tribes only own one or two properties, but three tribes hold a significantly larger share of the market: Ho-Chunk Nation (six casinos), Oneida Tribe (five casinos), and St. Croix Chippewa Indians (three casinos). The biggest casino in the state is the Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee, which houses more than 3,000 slot machines, 100 table games, and a large poker room.
Unfortunately, residents don’t have access to any state-sanctioned online casinos, and playing on offshore sites is illegal within state borders. This isn’t likely to change in the foreseeable future as no gambling bills are underway at the moment.
As mentioned, determining whether a game constitutes unlawful gambling in Wisconsin hinges on the predominance of skill over luck, and the Poker Players Alliance attempted to take advantage of this to legalize poker without changing the law. Unfortunately, these hopes of achieving a legal breakthrough were dashed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court because of a legal precedent set by a 1964 case.
Today, poker carries the same legal status as luck-based casino games and can be played for money exclusively in the local casinos. Wisconsin doesn’t run any state-sanctioned poker sites. While some offshore platforms accept players from the Badger State, they’re doing their customers a disservice by putting them in legal jeopardy.
Wisconsin Sports Betting
The landmark Supreme Court ruling that overturned the federal ban on sports betting isn’t likely to have any impact on Wisconsin. In essence, local legislators don’t seem interested in legalizing this form of gambling. The 2018 session is guaranteed to close with no sports betting bill on the agenda, and the odds of such a bill being introduced in 2019 appear slim.
On a brighter note, even though all the local race tracks were closed, Wisconsin residents can still engage in simulcast horse and dog race betting in the local tribal casinos.
Wisconsin Daily Fantasy Sports
DFS platforms advertise their contests as entirely skill-based and claim that they are legal in states like Wisconsin, which rely on the luck factor to determine whether something constitutes gambling. So far, none of these assertions were challenged by state officials, but DFS fans should be keenly aware of the fact that sites like DraftKings, FanDuel, or Yahoo DFS are operating in a legal gray area in this state. Fortunately, state legislators are currently working on two bills designed to regulate paid DFS contests, so the situation is likely to become crystal clear in 2019. However, this is not guaranteed; the sponsors behind one of the current bills already tried making a similar push in 2017 but failed to rally the House behind their cause.
The Wisconsin Lottery offers all the popular local and multi-state draft games, including Powerball and Mega Millions, as well as scratch games and pull-tab games. Unfortunately, the lottery website is for information purposes only – purchasing tickets requires a visit to a licensed retail shop.
Bingo is a popular alternative to raffles as a form of charitable gaming in Wisconsin, and it’s also offered commercially by the local casinos. Unfortunately, local businesses aren’t allowed to operate online bingo sites, and playing on offshore platforms meets the definition of unlawful gambling.
Wisconsin Online Gambling FAQ
What types of gambling are available in WI?
There aren’t any commercial casinos in Wisconsin, but other than that, the state is very attractive for land-based gambling enthusiasts. The local tribal casinos are free to offer all kinds of games, while racetracks focus on pari-mutuel betting. Wisconsin has a state-run lottery and some charitable gambling, mainly in the form of bingo and raffles operated by licensed organizations. The state allows social gaming but doesn’t have any online gambling regulations that would allow for Wisconsin-licensed iGaming sites.
What laws cover online gambling in Wisconsin?
Gambling in Wisconsin is covered by Section 945 of the Wisconsin code. Many experts believe that the regulations that criminalize participating in unlicensed gambling activities do not apply to online gambling, as internet games aren’t mentioned anywhere in the text. While this theory hasn’t been proven right or wrong yet, online gamblers aren’t being prosecuted right now.
Is real money online gambling legal in Wisconsin?
The legal status of online gambling is somewhat ambiguous in Wisconsin, but that doesn’t change the fact that no offshore site customers have been charged with a misdemeanor up to this point. This leads us to believe that playing on sites like Bovada is perfectly safe.
Which offshore gambling sites accept Wisconsin residents?
Major offshore sites are relatively widespread among Wisconsin-based iGaming veterans, so it should come as no surprise that most of them accept new customers from Wisconsin.
What are the most popular banking options supported by Wisconsin-facing sites?
If you decide to make your deposit using Visa/MasterCard credit/debit card, the money should be credited to your account within 24 hours, which makes it the best option when it comes to funding your offshore gambling account. Withdrawals generally tend to take a few days to process, but wire transfers are still reasonably quick and allow you to get your winnings without spending a lot of money on transaction fees.
Does Wisconsin offer any intrastate online gambling?
No. While there’s no denying the fact that Wisconsin officials couldn’t care less about going after individual online gamblers, they’re very serious when it comes to shutting down unlicensed online gambling businesses operating from within the borders of the state.
Is it likely for Wisconsin to regulate online gambling?
While new regulations aren’t impossible, Wisconsin isn’t going to lead the way for other states like Nevada or New Jersey. The local lawmakers are interested in protecting the Wisconsin Indian casinos, so any future iGaming regulations would most likely result from a broader national trend.