Wisconsin is a state synonymous with blue-collar, down-to-earth people and values. Its largest city’s baseball team references beer-making in its mascot, and the fans of the only NFL football team in the state (whose mascot is derived from a meat-packing company) are nicknamed after the incredible amount of cheese manufacturing that occurs in the state.
So it should come as no surprise that there are several options for gambling in the state. However, it is not a free-for-all by any means. Gaming must exist in a specific set of circumstances, primarily on tribal lands.
Wisconsin’s gambling laws are like those in many states, in that there is no specific prohibition or allowance for gambling in the online sphere. As with many aspects of government, the law is slow to adapt to new technologies. Wisconsin’s gambling statutes offer a very meat-and-potatoes approach to the subject, so to speak. The fact that commercial casinos are not permitted would tend to make venturing online to gamble a risky proposition.
However, there may be a foot in the door. A Wisconsin state representative, Tyler Vorpagel, plans to reintroduce his bill to legalize fantasy sports wagering within the state. The bill would establish a regulatory framework for operators to exist in Wisconsin and provide their services to all of the state’s residents. This is Vorpagel’s second attempt to get an online fantasy sports bill through the legislature. The first bill was unsuccessful. But it represents a movement, at least from a portion of the electorate in Wisconsin, toward a legal framework for online gaming. So there is hope for the future.
Likely online gambling operators
|Forest County Potawatomi Indian Tribe||
|Oneida Tribe of Indians||
Social casino options
With such extensive options in the state, the social casino side of things in Wisconsin is surprisingly anemic. Only one casino, Lake of the Torches, offers a Play4Fun network site where players can try the casino’s roster of slot machines (or similar ones) for free. It seems to be a good way to generate new customers — particularly young people who are newly legal to go to the casino. However, this is the only Wisconsin casino to take up that particular flag.
Otherwise, the options for social gaming in the state are much like those in other states. Slotomania, Big Fish, Double Down Casino, and Zynga Poker offer players the opportunity to play their favorite (or sometimes, fantastical) slot machines or poker games without risking a dime.
Wisconsin players can also take advantage of the MyVegas app offered by MGM Resorts. This allows customers to generate real-world comps for MGM properties and partners throughout the US. Although Wisconsin is not particularly close to most of these partners, the opportunity to create travel options does exist for the dedicated MyVegas player in the state.
State casino operator history
Wisconsin’s history with regard to gambling is a decidedly conventional one. The state’s path to legalization mirrors the path of many other states. Like many states, its first foray into gambling was racing. Racing of any type has always been legal in Wisconsin, but wagering on the races, be they horse, dog, or car, was made illegal by a law dating back to 1897.
However, the siren song of easy tax revenue led to the introduction of numerous bills over the years to legalize wagering on races. To credit the fortitude from opponents of gambling, the bills failed for 90 years. To the credit of supporters of gambling, they never gave up. They were finally rewarded with a constitutional amendment in 1987 that legalized gambling in the state.
Normally, this would be a happy ending – but alas, even though five dog racing tracks eventually opened, all have now closed. Currently, the only news about racing in Wisconsin is questions about how to redevelop the former sites.
Around the same time of the racing legalization, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed into federal law. this act allowed federally-recognized Native American tribes to negotiate compacts with their states to build and operate full Vegas-style casinos on reservation lands. Wisconsin is home to 11 such tribes, and in good faith, the state government began to negotiate with the tribes soon after the bill’s passage.
The arrangements reached during this period of time are responsible for the situation in Wisconsin today. The 11 tribes own and operate 22 casinos throughout the state. The nation with the greatest number of casinos (by far) is the Ho-Chunk Nation, which controls six properties. However, the Potawatomi Nation owns the title for the largest single casino. Their Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee features over 3,100 slot machines, 100 table games, a large poker room, and all the comforts expected at a typical resort property.
Finally, Wisconsin offers residents and visitors a chance to buy state and multi-state lottery tickets. The state began offering drawings in 1988. Somewhat unusually, the revenue from the ticket sales goes to property tax relief for Wisconsin residents. Almost every other state that offers a lottery ties the proceeds to funding educational resources.
Below are the tribes operating casinos in Wisconsin and the casinos under their control.
Tribes with land-based casinos
|Tribe||Casinos Owned & Operated|
|Bad River Band of Chippewa Indians||
|Forest County Potawatomi Indian Tribe||
|Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin||
|Lac du Flambeau band of Lake Superior Chippewa||
|Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin||
|Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin||
|Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin||
|Sokaogon Band of Lake Superior Chippewa||
|St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin||
|Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Tribe||
State legal environment
|Permitted/Offered?||Notes & Restrictions|
|Land-Based Gambling||Yes||Tribal casinos only|
|Online Gambling||No||Failed attempt to legalize in 2017|
|Charitable or House-Based Gambling||Yes||Raffles, bingo, and home games permitted|
|Minimum Gambling Age||18 for bingo; 21 for casinos|