Wisconsin is a deceiving state. It doesn't get the national recognition of a typical multi-sport draw, and yet, that's exactly what it is. They have a nice mix of professional franchises, like the Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Bucks, and well-known collegiate programs, such as the Wisconsin Badgers and Marquette Golden Eagles. That this state flies under the radar in the sporting world—particularly at the collegiate level—is almost criminal.
Wisconsin Sports Betting Law
This can help explain why Wisconsin is mostly under appreciated compared to other states: Their gambling laws are archaic. It's not that they don't allow sports betting; they don't, but their issues extend to so much more than that, especially for a state that has more than its fair share of casinos.
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More Than Enough Casinos
Almost 20 casinos are currently operating out of Wisconsin at the moment. All of them are tribally run; the state does not allow for big business to get a hand in this industry. Besides, it's not like Wisconsin needs them. The eight tribes who are responsible for defining the casino scene have constantly shown interest in expansion, and the state, for its part, doesn't have any legislation in place that deters these ambitions beyond reason.
Poker Is Illegal
Yup, you're reading this correctly. Poker is illegal in Wisconsin unless it's being played within one of the tribal casinos—most of which have a full-service poker room.
This quirk is ludicrous and creates some gray areas when it comes to social gambling. And Wisconsin's officials know it. In one of the more recent attempts to legalize poker, from 2015, the presiding judge essentially noted that poker should be legalized, but then explained his hands were tied by the incumbent law, along with previous precedent.
Interpreted exactly, this means poker of all forms—sans the games offered online by overseas casinos—should be prohibited. That includes your quaint little living room game. Again: ludicrous.
If it's any consolation, though, the upside of local government knowing the current law is outmoded works in favor of residents. They won't be prosecuted for playing card games with friends for money. That's not something Wisconsin is trying to strictly enforce.
They've made that much clear. Graduate to bigger-scale games that approach tournament size, and that's when you may be asking for some trouble.
Daily Fantasy Sports a Work in Progress
Wisconsin follows the same evaluation method for daily fantasy sports that almost every other state does: Are these contests predicated more on chance or skill?
The answer can go either way. Literally. Different states have rendered different answers to the same dang question. To Wisconsin's credit, they lean more toward daily fantasy sports consisting of games dominated by skill rather than chance.
Nothing has been passed on an official basis, but a proposal is pending, and daily fantasy sports contests can essentially be considered legal unless they're all of a sudden determined not to be.
Off-Track Betting Only
Wisconsin allows you to bet on both horse and dog races—just not on-site. All bets must be placed off-track, either online or at an OTB (Off-Track Betting) facility.
Placing your wagers in person, at the OTB spots, is always preferred. Tangible, face-to-face transactions are better in general, and most OTB operations have a lounge-type feel to them; you can get refreshments, sit down and watch the races you bet on unfold in real-time.
Wisconsin Gambling Law Overview
Please see below for a more specific breakdown of what betting types are and aren't allowed in Wisconsin at this time.
- Casino Gambling: Legal (tribal only)
- Tribal Gambling: Legal
- Poker: Not legal
- Horse-Race Betting: OTB Only
- Dog-Race Betting: OTB Only
- Lottery: Legal
- Daily Fantasy Betting: Not legal (but there is a pending proposal)
- Social Gambling: Not specified
- Charitable Gambling: Legal
- Online Gambling: Not specified
Wisconsin Sports Teams
Green Bay Packers (NFL)
Are the Green Bay Packers the NFL's most prestigious franchise? They might be.
The Packers have been around for 97 seasons, over which time they've gone 4-1 in Super Bowl appearances, while racking up 13 total championships, dating back to the pre-Super Bowl era. They remain as relevant as ever nowadays, with Aaron Rodgers taking snaps under center. They haven't missed the playoffs since 2008.
One unique aside: Fans can buy stock in the Packers, who are recognized as a publicly owned NFL team...sort of. Any shares you buy are technically worthless following the completion of your purchase. The Packers still have controlling owners, even though they actually recognize more than 360,000 partial stakeholders. Basically, they're making money while you own an intangible piece of memorabilia. What a business.
Milwaukee Bucks (NBA)
The Milwaukee Bucks have built a reputation on mediocrity. Sure, they won a championship in 1971. And yes, they scrapped their way to the Eastern Conference Finals 30 years later, in 2001. But the rest of their story reads like a what's what of middling existence.
Consider this: They have made 12 playoff appearances since 1989-90—not great, but not terrible. Know how many times they've squeaked past the first round during those cameos? Once. That's it. So yes, they have been among the most mediocre teams for a lion's share of their time in the NBA.
But fans can expect this to change soon. The Bucks are currently one of the NBA's up-and-coming superpowers, almost solely because they have Giannis Antetokounmpo, a 22-year-old superstar who currently checks in as one of the Association's seven to 10 best players. Anytime you grab hold of a player that good, who is also this young, it's only a matter of time before you're sitting pretty, within striking distance of the most serious championship contenders.
Wisconsin Badgers (College Basketball)
The Wisconsin Badgers have one of the most unique trajectories college basketball has ever seen.
From the time they first started up in 1898-99, almost 120 years ago, to 1995-96, nearly a century later, they made only three tournament appearances. Three. In nearly 100 years. Think about that. One of those cameos turned out to be a championship run, but still: dang.
Since then, however, the Badgers have journeyed into March Madness during 20 of the past 21 seasons. None of those runs include another championship, but they do have one Finals appearance and have seldom been bounced in the first round.
Wisconsin's Biggest Sporting Event of the Year
Similar to West Virginia, Wisconsin is home to some major outdoor-game events. Their bread and butter is the Lumberjack World Championship, which takes place every year in Hayward, Wisconsin, usually around mid-to-late July. This event began in 1960 and is now held at the Lumberjack Bowl. And in case you are wondering, the arena seats 5,000 people and is typically filled to capacity during the three-day extravaganza.