As one of the first states to form compacts with its local Native American tribes, Wisconsin has had a flourishing casino landscape for over two decades. Residents and visitors of the state can play table games and electronic games at various tribal casinos around the state.

But for bettors wanting to place bets outside of these government-sanctioned casinos, the law is not too friendly. Placing a bet on a game of skill or chance is illegal in the state of Wisconsin, and there are even laws on the book against online gambling, making the state a less than ideal location for sports bettors.

Best Betting Sites for Wisconsin

Gaming Laws in Wisconsin

In the early stages of tribal casinos being legalized nationally, there was some haziness around whether or not tribes in the state of Wisconsin would be allowed to build casinos.

Tribal Casinos

In 1988, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was passed on the federal level, giving Native American tribes in states that had other forms of Class III gaming (including table games, slot machines, horse racing, and lotteries) the right to own and operate casinos to offer these games. The state of Wisconsin entered negotiations with its tribes in 1989 to form compacts, but there were mixed interpretations on whether or not casino gaming was legal in Wisconsin.

Eventually, it was determined that because Wisconsin had a legal state lottery, it was a part of Class III gaming and the state's tribes would be allowed to build and operate casinos. Wisconsin signed into compacts with its tribes to help regulate and oversee casino gaming within the state. The gaming compacts were entered into in 1989 by Wisconsin Act 196, and were approved in 1992 by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

The original minimum age for casino patrons was 18 years old, but that was raised to 21 years old when the compacts were renewed in 1998.

Sports Betting in Wisconsin

Sports betting is illegal in the state of Wisconsin, and there are some harsh laws on the books against it. Many states punish bookmakers harder than players placing the bets, but Wisconsin does not make a distinction between the two. The Wisconsin Statutes define bookmaking as the “receiving, recording or forwarding of a bet or offer to bet”, but don't go into specific penalties for bookmaking.

Instead, section 945.02 simply states that “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.” While this law is rarely enforced, it is on the books and serves as a hindrance to sports bettors in Wisconsin.

Online Betting

Wisconsin also has a law against wire transfers on its books, stating that wire transfers can not be used for “transmission or receipt of information assisting in the placing of a bet or offer to bet on any sporting event or contest”. This technically makes online sports betting explicitly illegal if a wire transfer is used to fund the account. This is another law that isn't openly enforced, but it is something that Wisconsin residents should consider before making a deposit.

Poker and Casino in Wisconsin

Due to its fairly quick embracing of Native American gaming through compacts with the state's tribes, Wisconsin set a foundation for casino gaming early in the 1990's. With over a dozen tribal casinos available around the state, Wisconsin residents have plenty of options when it comes to playing slot machines and table games.

There are currently a total of nine poker rooms in the state of Wisconsin, but many of them are very small with only two casinos running a poker room with more than eight tables. The state's largest poker room is at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino with 20 tables. Cash games and small tournaments are available in most of these locations.

Online Poker

Playing poker outside of tribal casinos is seemingly illegal in Wisconsin. Placing bets is illegal, and the state defines a bet as "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." This would seem to include poker.

Poker players willing to take the risk of playing online can do so at most offshore poker rooms, which are not under the jurisdiction of Wisconsin.

Other Gaming Options in Wisconsin

While there is no live horse racing in the state of Wisconsin, horse bettors can partake in off-track betting at a handful of Native American casinos across the state. These locations simulcast races from around the country for horse players to wager on legally.

Wisconsin Lottery

Founded in 1988, the Wisconsin Lottery is run by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. Residents of Wisconsin can bet on in-state draws, multi-state draws including Powerball and Mega Millions, and can also purchase scratch cards. While the state has laws in place against other forms of online gambling, Wisconsin Lottery tickets can be purchased online legally.

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