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Wisconsin State Gambling Laws and Casino Information

Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a state with a rather active casino industry, though you won’t find any commercial resorts run by big companies out of Las Vegas here. Instead, the market is dominated exclusively by Native American tribes, who operate a number of casinos throughout the state. That, along with a lottery and a few other options, puts the state somewhere in the middle of the country when it comes to gaming – it isn’t ubiquitous, but there are plenty of options if you seek them out.

That’s about where online gaming stands in the state, as well. Like most states, there is no regulatory framework for Internet betting, and there haven’t been any major efforts to try and move the legislature in that direction. But some of the state’s tribes have expressed an interest, which could at least signal the potential for locally-run sites to crop up in the future.

Native Gaming Dominates Landscape

Like most states, Wisconsin started from a point where all gambling was illegal. And while there were certainly underground gaming rings on and off throughout history, the first legal provisions came in 1973, when charities earned the right to offer raffles and bingo nights for good causes. It wouldn’t be until 1987 that parimutuel wagering arrived here – surprisingly late, even if the Badger State is far from the heart of the horse racing industry in America.

Interestingly, while those laws regarding betting on races are still on the books, you can’t actually bet on horses or greyhounds anywhere in the state at the moment. There aren’t any active racetracks still in operation, with the final greyhound park in the state closing back in 2009. While Indian tribes have occasionally floated the idea of reopening one or more of these sites with the addition of some level of casino-style gambling, these proposals have yet to gain any traction.

Speaking of the state’s many Native American tribes, the current gaming industry here is dominated by them, as they operate the only legal casinos in the state. Following the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, many tribes began seeking compacts with the state government that would allow them to offer Class III gaming (which covers almost all classic casino games). In the early 90s, compacts were signed with 11 different tribes, all of which have been updated and are still in effect. Today, there are about 25 Native American venues in the state, ranging from large-scale resorts to small bingo halls.

Wisconsin is also home to a longstanding lottery. The state lottery began in 1988, after it was approved by the state legislature. Today, there are only a few drawings that are specific to the state, but national games like Mega Millions and Powerball are also available.

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Tribes Show Interest in Online Potential

Wisconsin’s state government hasn’t taken up any real discussions about whether they might want to regulate and license online gambling sites. Like most states, it’s hard to see a pathway to regulation in the next few years: while the state isn’t entirely anti-gambling, it’s hard to find much sentiment among either lawmakers or the general population for Internet expansion at this point.

However, there is at least one exception here. The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians took the step of joining the Tribal Internet Gaming Alliance in 2014, the first tribe in the United States to do so. They had already shown at least a passing interest in online gambling, having put play money sites into operation in conjunction with the Lake of the Torches Casino Resort, which they operate. So far, little has come of this move, but it at least shows a level of interest we haven’t seen in many other states.

While all these developments are interesting, there still aren’t any locally-operated sites for Wisconsinites to play on. Instead, the only available options are based overseas, where many operators see the state, and most of the USA, as a grey market. While there may not be a way for them to get a license here, they’re still willing to set up shop and allow locals to play – and without any laws making it illegal to participate on those sites, many players in the state play for real money with reputable, trusted online casinos every day.


Tensions Between Government, Tribes Continue

Given the number of different compacts between the state of Wisconsin and the local Native American tribes, it is only natural for issues to arise from time to time. Sure enough, conflict has continued into recent years, and it’s likely that there will be more disagreements in the near future.

The latest scuffle involved the Menominee tribe, which was hoping to build a casino at the former Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha. That would have been off of the Menominee reservation, but the plan was rejected by Governor Scott Walker, a move that was a blow to the tribe. While many suggested that Walker’s presidential ambitions may have played into his decision, he cited a 2005 compact with the Potawatomi tribe – one that would require the state to provide money to the Potawatomi should a new Kenosha casino cause a drop in profits at their existing venues. Still, the Menominee say they would have covered those costs for taxpayers, though the Potawatomi and other tribes may still have been upset about losing market share had the plan been approved.

These brick-and-mortar issues are likely to continue to crop up, especially as more tribes look to expand away from their reservations. On the other hand, we don’t expect to see much talk about the future of Internet gaming sites in this state. There’s little interest among legislators, and even the Chippewa Indians do not look like they are ready to implement anything for real money in the near future. Their baby steps could eventually put them on the path to running an online casino site, but for now, it appears as though Wisconsin is far from hosting virtual slots and other digital games within its borders.

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