Wisconsin is a fairly gambling-friendly state with legal online horse racing betting, fantasy sports and two dozen tribal casinos. Other forms of gambling, including sports betting, could potentially be legalized in Wisconsin at some point in the future.
What types of gambling are legal in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin permits most forms of gambling. This includes a state lottery, tribal casinos, racing and charitable gaming. Sports betting is not legal in Wisconsin. The state has not passed any regulations pertaining to daily fantasy sports contests.
Betting on races involving horses and greyhounds is legal in Wisconsin. The industry is no longer active in the state. There are no live tracks.
This list shows the types of gambling found in Wisconsin and where to find it:
- WI State Lottery (retailers)
- Horse racing betting (off-track and mobile)
- Casinos (tribal)
- Bingo and raffles (charities)
Online Gambling in Wisconsin
The only form of legal online gambling in Wisconsin is mobile betting on horse races. TwinSpires accepts players from the state. Daily fantasy sports are presumed legal in Wisconsin. DraftKings, FanDuel, Fantasy Draft and Yahoo are among the companies that operate daily fantasy sports sites that accept Wisconsin players.
Online Gambling Laws in Wisconsin
There are no specific online gambling laws in Wisconsin. Most of it is illegal because it is not licensed by the state. This includes offshore poker rooms, casinos and sportsbooks. Mobile horse racing is legal through simulcast laws and the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978. Players must be at least 18 years old.
Land-Based Casinos in Wisconsin
All land-based casinos in Wisconsin operate on tribal land. There are about two-dozen casinos throughout the state between 11 tribes. There are no limits on the games offered or bet limits. Video poker, slots, blackjack, craps, roulette, live poker rooms and poker table games are all legal at reservation casinos in Wisconsin.
Sports Betting in Wisconsin
Wisconsin gained the ability to legalize sports betting in May of 2018 after the Supreme Court struck down a longstanding law called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). That law prohibited Wisconsin and other states from enacting laws to legalize or regulate sports betting – until now.
The end of PASPA removed the biggest hurdle to sports betting in Wisconsin, but our own state laws must now be amended before we see the first online or land-based sportsbooks.
Shortly after the Supreme Court issued its decision, the Journal Sentinel offered a brief overview of what the decision means for Wisconsin. In short, the piece explained that although the decision has no immediate impact on Wisconsin, it could in fact pave the way for local casinos to begin offering sports wagers.
One potential hurdle is the fact that the Wisconsin constitution prohibits sports betting. To change that would require the legislature to agree on a constitutional amendment, which would also require the approval of voters.
However, a source with ties to Wisconsin tribes told the Journal Sentinel that the tribes do not need a constitutional change to begin offering sports betting at their own casinos. They would instead need an amendment to gaming compacts between the tribes and the state. The likelihood of the tribes and state reaching an agreement is uncertain, but does offer a path for legal sports betting in Wisconsin that would avoid the politically tricky prospect of amending the state constitution.
Absent any creative legal maneuvering between state lawmakers and tribal leaders, legalizing online sports betting in Wisconsin will require a constitutional amendment. Even if tribes are able to renegotiate their gaming compacts with the state, sports betting would be limited to taking place at their casinos. What seems most likely right now is that the state finds a way to legalize real-world sport betting over the near future and online sports betting later down the line.
Daily Fantasy Sports
The legality of daily fantasy sports sites in Wisconsin has yet to be determined, but the major DFS sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings have been operating here for years without any trouble from the government.
Most lawmakers seem to agree that DFS meets the basic requirements to be classified as a contest of skill. Back in 2017, for example, State. Rep. Tyler Vorpagel told FOX6 that he doesn’t believe fantasy sports contests should be considered gambling. In any case, the current status quo is that fantasy sports sites operate in Wisconsin without any interference from local officials.
Efforts to formally legalize and regulate fantasy sports in Wisconsin have had trouble getting the traction they need to become law. Rep. Vorpagel introduced bills in 2016 and 2017 seeking to give DFS sites official legal status, require them to register with the state and to adhere to certain consumer protection regulations. Both bills failed to get the support they needed to become law.
The difficulty in getting a fantasy sports bill passed in Wisconsin likely has less to do with actual opposition to the idea than with lawmakers simply not finding it to be a high priority. The major DFS sites that operate in Wisconsin are already registered in other states and already adhere to all sorts of consumer protection regulations. New legislation would change little except to finally make it 100% clear that DFS sites are legal.
Horse Racing Betting
Wisconsin gambling law permits trackside and off-track betting as long as it is offered by an authorized track, betting site, or OTB. All racetracks in Wisconsin have gone out of business, so that leaves us with online betting and OTBs only.