Is Gambling in Wisconsin Legal?
Wisconsin is considered one of the less conservative states when it comes to gambling as there are a good number of options for residents and visitors to choose from despite the fact that there are no commercial casinos within the border.
This was not always the case as when the Wisconsin statutes were first created in the first half of the 19th century, the state’s stance was anti-gambling. Eventually, small carve-outs for individual types of gambling were added over the years.
The majority of the gambling options available today are results of compacts that were signed in 1991 and 1992 with 11 tribes wishing to host casinos on their own land.
Currently, real money gambling is always available through Native American tribal casinos, pari-mutuel racetrack wagering, the state lottery and licensed charitable gambling.
Wisconsin Gambling Laws
The laws pertaining to gambling revolves around the “bet” aspect. It also follows the paths of other states in that it takes a blanket ban approach to outlaw all games, allowing only those they explicitly deem legal to be played.
Here is how this state defines “bet”, as found in section 945.01 of the Wisconsin Statutes:
“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.”
Unfortunately, based on the language used in this law, it doesn’t allow poker fans to use the “skills vs chance” argument to justify that poker is exempted from this law.
Within the same section, it goes on to make several exceptions: bingo/raffles, pari-mutuel wagering, state lottery, genuine business transactions, life insurance, prizes for contest of endurance/skill
Below are some operations which are not taken lightly in this state:
Being involved in a commercial gambling operation is a Class I felony. This includes running an illegal lottery, being involved in the profits from an illegal casino, or maintaining records or devices to be used in gambling. If gambling machines are involved, the person may also be forced to forfeit anywhere from $500 to $2,500.
Wisconsin Gambling Options
Casino:There are a total of eleven tribal casinos in Wisconsin, all offering class-III gaming, which covers all the casino table games as well as slots. Across all the casinos, there is a combined total of more than 16,000 slot machines, 300 table games and 40 land-based poker tables.
Poker:There are both cash games and tournaments at the tribal casinos. Although this state doesn’t have any carve-out for social gaming, as long as you keep your small-stake home games private, the likelihood of any officials knocking on your door is next to slim.
Sports Betting:This is a very interesting one. Betting on horse or greyhound races is legal here, however, there are no tracks…….
Lottery:The state has its own lottery.
Charity Gaming:There are low-stakes bingo and raffle games.
Online Gambling in Wisconsin
Wisconsin is no different to the majority of the states when it comes to its laws (or lack thereof) pertaining to the legality of online gambling. There are no laws specifically addressing the practice of online gambling. They do have, however, the typical laws which are usually perceived as the most relevant ones when it comes to gambling online. These are:
“Gambling machine. (a) A gambling machine is a contrivance which for a consideration affords the player an opportunity to obtain something of value, the award of which is determined by chance, even though accompanied by some skill and whether or not the prize is automatically paid by the machine.”
And particularly for this state alone, it also includes a law which specifically bans anyone from operating online gambling from within state lines, found in clause 6 of section 945.01:
“any and all instrumentalities, personnel, and services, and among other things the receipt, forwarding or delivery of communications used or useful in the transmission of writings, signs, pictures and sounds of all kinds by means of wire, cable, microwave or other like connection between the points of origin and reception of such transmission.”
Luckily for most, specifically those wishing to gamble online, these laws do not target individual players. For all intents and purposes, it is legal for residents or visitors within Wisconsin to gamble online at offshore sites. The only difficulty that they might encounter is finding a convenient way to make deposits at these sights, which in more cases than not, are unlikely to accept credit card and similar payment methods, thanks to the enactment of the UIGEA law.
Online Poker in Wisconsin
Just as we have explained in the above section, there are no laws within Wisconsin Statutes that explicitly outlaws the practice of online gambling for individual players. In other words, residents and visitors of Wisconsin can legally play online poker as long as they’re playing at regulated offshore poker sites. Once again, the only difficulty they might face when playing at these offshore sites is finding one that offers the most convenient form of payments for you, which could involve a short walk to the nearest Western Union Office.
Will Wisconsin Regulate Online Poker in the Future?
Considering the status-quo of the gambling situation in this state, which is mostly controlled by the tribes since the 1990s, there’s no evidence to suggest this will change anytime soon.