On Mar. 14, legislators and tribal leaders gathered for the 19th annual State of the Tribes Address at the Wisconsin State Capitol. Sokaogon Chippewa Community Chairman, Robert Van Zile, brought many tribal issues to the table, including the ongoing problems with illegal gambling in Wisconsin.
Slot machines are illegal in Wisconsin, except at tribal casinos
At the gathering, Van Zile urged legislators to focus on illegal gambling in the state. He says unlawful gambling costs Wisconsin millions of dollars in unclaimed tax revenue yearly. Van Zile stated that around 60,000 illegal gaming machines operate in taverns statewide.
Illegal gambling is not an isolated issue; but is a national issue that has persisted for years. According to the American Gaming Association, illegal gambling costs state governments $13.3 billion in tax revenue annually. That amount is nearly $2.5 billion more than what legal US casino and sportsbook operators generated in 2021.
Illegal betting also costs the legal gaming industry $44.2 billion in annual revenue.
Illegal gambling in Wisconsin has been circulating the courts for years
Wisconsin doesn’t monitor illegal gambling machines. And tribal leaders speculate that the payouts might be unfair to those who play. Because the state doesn’t regulate the software inside the machines, there is no telling if a player has an honest chance at winning.
Manufacturers of the machines say these accusations are false. But ultimately, it will be up to the courts to decide the best path forward.
Although the loss of revenue suggests illegal gambling is an out-of-control problem, the AGA has conducted studies that indicate a growing shift in the data. With the genesis of legalized gambling in more than half the country, Americans no longer need to play in illegal markets.
Illegal gambling won’t go away overnight, but over time steady decreases may occur. Especially as legal markets expand throughout the United States.