Online Poker in Wisconsin

Important WI Notes

Wisconsin prohibits real money gambling online, including casino-style games and sports betting. This distinction limits the number of Wisconsin online sportsbooks that players can choose from even more than in other parts of the country. Second, Wisconsin has taken legal steps to address players using offshore betting sites as well. Wisconsin is the home State of World Series of Poker legend Phil Helmuth, who still appears in poker tournaments here. There are 10 poker rooms, mostly on the small side, who offer a range of tournament and cash game action from tribal lands in this State. Online poker is not considered legal under the existing legal codes. There is currently no legislation permitting online poker in the state. Current Wisconsin Gambling Laws There is no shortage of tribal casinos in Wisconsin with approximately 22 properties owned.

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  • Regulated offshore poker websites accept players from WI
  • The state currently opposes all forms of internet gambling
  • WI Governor has been denying gambling expansion recently
  • Lottery, charitable, pari-mutuel, & tribal casinos allowed
  • Commercial casinos and racetrack betting are not legal
Rep. Tyler Vorpagel introduced a bill to legalize and regulate online daily fantasy sports (DFS) betting. The bill would require operators to register with the state for $150,000 and agree to regulations. Failure to follow these rules could lead the to operator losing their license and a maximum penalty of $1,000.
As long as Scott Walker is the state’s Governor, the passing of internet poker looks dim. BetOnline is a reputable offshore poker website we recommend that has a solid Visa credit card deposit success rate, and they accept players from Wisconsin.

Online poker would be covered under the Wire Communication Facility as defined in the Wisconsin statutes. Operating an online poker room would be specifically illegal in Wisconsin. Though playing poker online is not specifically declared illegal, it would be illegal to operate an internet poker site under the general definitions of gambling and related terms. However, poker players in Wisconsin can legally play at regulated offshore sites.

Future Outlook of Online Poker in Wisconsin – Estimated date of legalization: 2020-2021

The following graph tracks our expected legislation of online poker in Wisconsin on a state law level. It is currently already legal on a Federal level. This graph monitors the current rise or fall of expected legalization.

The Menominee Indian Tribe and the Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohicans have asked Wisconsin’s State Department of Administration to block the expansion of a gambling hall belonging to a rival tribe. The two tribes say that the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin’s...

Recent Activity
The establishment in Wisconsin has opposed online gambling since the late 1990s. In September 1997, Attorney General James Doyle filed lawsuits on behalf of Wisconsin against three online gambling operators offering lottery type games on the grounds that accepting bets via computer is illegal in Wisconsin. The Business Journal reported[A] that the court struck down the cases against the tribal Indians because they were not subject to Wisconsin law, but permitted the prosecution of the Internet company that ran the operations for the tribes.

In June 2012, Wisconsin Family Action[B] was one from a group of such organizations from 13 states that wrote to the Congress to impose a Federal ban on online gambling. This was in response to the Department of Justice ruling that individual states could legalize all forms of online gambling except for sports betting. In August 2013, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker reiterated his opposition to online gambling. He went on to add that he would permit the expansions in Indian land casinos contingent to the acceptance of a no online gambling clause. Hence, there seems little likelihood of online poker being legalized in Wisconsin in the foreseeable future.

Current Gambling Laws in Wisconsin

There is a separate sub heading titled Gaming in the Wisconsin Statutes. It covers Chapters 561 to 569 that deal with various forms of legal and regulated gaming. The Wisconsin Division of Gaming[C] has oversight on the regulated gambling activities. Chapter 945[D] of the Wisconsin Statutes, which falls under criminal code, defines gambling and states the penalties for illegal gambling. Some of the important sections are reproduced below.

With regards to private betting, Section 945.01 states: “A bet is 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.”

A bet does not include bona fide business transactions which are valid under the law of contracts such as the purchase or sale at a future date of securities or other commodities and payouts against life, health and accident insurance. A bet also does not include prizes to the actual contestants in any bona fide contest for the determination of skill, speed, strength, or endurance or to the owners of animals or vehicles entered in such contests. Legalized forms of gambling such as participation in bingo or a raffle conducted under Chapter 563, pari-mutuel wagering conducted under Chapter 562 and participation in a lottery conducted under Chapter 565 are also permitted. Betting or participating in gambling activity is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 90 days, or both. It has been reported that law enforcement authorities rarely prosecute activities, such as low-stakes poker games or betting pools, even though these activities are illegal.

Section 945.03 deals with commercial gambling, which in brief is any sort of involvement for profit in running gambling operations that are unlicensed. Commercial gambling is a Class E felony punishable by a fine not to exceed $10,000 or imprisonment not to exceed two years, or both. Local law enforcement authorities usually raid establishments conducting commercial gambling only in response to specific citizen complaints.

History of Gambling in Wisconsin

Constitution as adopted prohibits any form of lottery for perpetuity.
Legislation makes all gambling debts uncollectible.
Betting on the result of a contest of man or beast specifically prohibited.
System of disguising winnings as refunds on winning animals prohibited.
Wisconsin voters approve participation in promotional contests.
Charitable bingo approved by voters.
Charitable raffles approved by voters.
On track pari-mutuel wagering approved. State lottery established.
Greyhound racing resumes at the Geneva Lakes Kennel Club.
First gaming compacts with Indian tribes concluded.
Wisconsin voters limit gambling to existing activities. Wisconsin Act 174 permits enforcement of debts related to legal gambling.
Dairyland Greyhound Park, the last surviving race track, closes.
A new Indian casino to be built in Kenosha by the Menominee Nation tribe was denied by Governor Scott Walker on January 23rd. On August 17th, a judge ruled that playing poker is illegal unless played in a tribal casino.
The state lottery generated $627 million which was an all-time record.

Land Based Poker in Wisconsin

Home poker games are covered under private gambling and are illegal in Wisconsin. But law enforcement authorities rarely prosecute such activities even though they are illegal.

Charity Poker Tournament

There is no exemption for charity poker tournaments in the Wisconsin Statutes and such activities are illegal.

Live poker is permitted only at the licensed Indian tribal casinos.

Gambling Laws in Wisconsin


The Evolution of Legalized Gambling in Wisconsin[E], a study conducted by Legislative Reference Bureau outlines the history of gambling in the state. Since the ban on lottery in 1848, the courts, the legislature and attorneys general interpreted any game involving a prize, chance and consideration as a lottery, even if skill or knowledge could influence the outcome of the game. Therefore, all forms of gambling, both public and private, whether conducted for profit or for charity were initially prohibited. Over time certain forms of gambling became permissible, but required a constitutional amendment in each case.

In 1993 Wisconsin voters affirmed the following key issues on gambling.

  • Any state-operated or private casino-style gaming would require subsequent constitutional change.
  • Casino gambling on excursion boats would not be allowed.
  • Video poker and other forms of off-reservation video gambling would not be allowed.
  • The existing pari-mutuel on-track wagering on racing could be continued.
  • The state lottery could be continued.

The only brick and mortar casinos permitted in Wisconsin are those operated by the Indian Tribes on reservations. The laws regarding this are covered in Chapter 569 of the Wisconsin Statutes. The casinos are operated in 16 counties by 11 Tribes. The Division of Gaming, Office of Indian Gaming and Regulatory Compliance is the entity responsible for the State portion of the Tribal gaming oversight required by the Compacts.

By the 1989 Wisconsin Act 196, the governor was authorized to enter into gaming compacts on behalf of the state with the Indian Tribes. By June 1992, the governor had concluded 7-year gaming compacts with all 11 of the state’s Indian tribes. In 2003, Governor Jim Doyle increased the number of games casinos could offer, expanded the hours of operation, and arranged that the compacts never again had to be renegotiated. Currently, the casinos offer Class III games through a total of 16,643 gaming devices and 345 gaming tables as per the report Tribal Gaming in Wisconsin[F] released in January 2013. Class III games include banking card games, electronic games of chance, and generally all casino style high stakes games.

On January 23, 2015, Governor Scott Walker did not approval a new Indian casino project in Kenosha, Wisconsin by the Menominee Nation tribe. The Governor said if he were to approve the project the state might end up having to owe hundreds of millions to a rival Indian tribe.

Pari-mutuel Wagering in Wisconsin

The 1987 Wisconsin Act 354 authorized pari-mutuel wagering on horse, dog and snow-mobile racing. The laws are covered under Chapter 562 of Wisconsin Statutes. However, only greyhound racing was ever conducted. At one time there were five greyhound tracks but by 2009 all had shut down[G].

Section 562.057 provides for simulcasting horse races even from out-of state race tracks and pari-mutuel betting on the same.

Riverboat gambling is illegal in Wisconsin as it has been rejected by the voters in 1993. Clause (4)(a) of Section 945.01 defines a gambling place as, “any building or tent, any vehicle (whether self-propelled or not) or any room within any of them, one of whose principal uses is any of the following: making and settling bets; receiving, holding, recording or forwarding bets or offers to bet; conducting lotteries; or playing gambling machines”. This covers gambling on cruise boats. There is an opinion[H] from the Attorney General’s office that a riverboat licensed in a neighboring state and equipped with casino type gambling games would be violating Wisconsin law if it entered Wisconsin waters.

Lotteries in Wisconsin

The lottery amendment was ratified in 1987 by Wisconsin residents and the 1987 Wisconsin Act 119 created the state lottery. The state lottery began operations in September 1988, with “Match 3”, an instant win scratch-off game. Chapter 565 of the Wisconsin Statutes deals with laws concerning the state lottery. The Wisconsin State Lottery is administered by the Department of Revenue’s Division of Lottery[I]. It offers scratch-off instant win games, pull-tabs, and on-line numbers drawings games including the national Power Ball and Mega Millions draws.

In April 1973, the citizens of Wisconsin voted to permit the legislature to authorize licensed bingo games conducted by religious, charitable, service, fraternal or veterans organizations. The rules governing the terms and conditions are covered under Chapter 563 of the Wisconsin Statutes. The main terms are that the organization must be a nonprofit entity incorporated in Wisconsin, has been in existence for at least three years and the profits are used for the benefit of the organization. Personnel who conduct the games cannot be compensated. The prize money, in cash or merchandise, cannot be more than $1,000 per occasion and not more than $250 in a single game.

Wisconsin also allows raffles for charity. The laws relating to raffles are contained in Subchapter VIII of Chapter 563 of the Wisconsin Statutes. All raffle drawings must be held in public and the maximum price for a ticket can be $50. In 1989, Wisconsin allowed statewide organizations to sponsor raffles. Earlier raffles were held locally.

Promotional Contests in Wisconsin

Promotional contests were the first events based on chance that were specifically legalized in Wisconsin through Chapter 122, Laws of 1965. This was to prevent them from falling under the general definition of gambling. The contests include drawings and sweepstakes. The constitutional provisions and laws governing promotional contests are specified in Article IV, Section 24 (2) of the Wisconsin Constitution and Section 945.01 (5) of the Wisconsin Statutes. The main requirements are that the promotional contests must be open to anyone essentially free of charge, with the exception of minimal postage, copying, telephone or transportation costs and all entrants must enjoy an equal chance of winning all prizes.

Author:Joseph Falchetti (twitter)
(C) Copyright, 2018

References and Citations

Home» US Poker Laws » State Laws » Wisconsin Poker Laws

Wisconsin Quick Links

  • 1.Wisconsin Gambling Laws
    • 1.1Definition of Bet
    • 1.2Definition of Gambling
    • 1.3Definition of Commercial Gambling
  • 2.Are There Any Casinos in Wisconsin?
  • 3.Is Sports Betting Permitted in WY?
  • 4.Other Forms of Legal Gambling in Wisconsin
  • 5.What are the Online Poker Laws in Wisconsin?
    • 5.1Is it Legal to Play Poker in Wisconsin?
    • 5.2Will Wisconsin Regulate Online Poker?
  • 6.What is Wisconsin's Gambling History?

Find out if online poker is legal in Wisconsin / WI

America's Dairyland is known for cheese – and those hilarious yet iconic cheeseheads, if we're being honest – but there's more to Wisconsin than football and silly outfits. The state is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and its network of 15,000 lakes makes for some mighty fine fishing, but there are also opportunities here for gambling enthusiasts, believe it or not.

Tribal gaming has a solid home in Badger country and you can place race bets, too – you just have to find somewhere to do it. For more info on Wisconsin's gambling laws, legislative history, charitable gaming restrictions and where you can play a fun-filled game of Texas Hold 'Em, read on!

Wisconsin Gambling Laws

Wisconsin state law includes the following legal definitions1:

  • Bet
  • Gambling
  • Commercial Gambling

'Bet.' A bet is 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.'

'Gambling.Whoever does any of the following is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor:

  • (1) Makes a bet; or
  • (2) Enters or remains in a gambling place with intent to make a bet, to participate in a lottery, or to play a gambling machine; or
  • (3) Conducts a lottery, or with intent to conduct a lottery, possesses facilities to do so.'

'Commercial gambling.(1m) Whoever intentionally does any of the following is engaged in commercial gambling and, except as provided in sub. (2m), is guilty of a Class I felony:

  • (a) Participates in the earnings of or for gain operates or permits the operation of a gambling place; or
  • (b) For gain, receives, records or forwards a bet or offer to bet or, with intent to receive, record or forward a bet or offer to bet, possesses facilities to do so; or
  • (c) For gain, becomes a custodian of anything of value bet or offered to be bet; or
  • (d) Conducts a lottery where both the consideration and the prize are money, or with intent to conduct such a lottery, possesses facilities to do so; or
  • (e) Sets up for use for the purpose of gambling or collects the proceeds of any gambling machine; or
  • (f) For gain, maintains in this state any record, paraphernalia, tickets, certificates, bills, slip, token, paper, writing or other device used, or to be used, or adapted, devised or designed for use in gambling; or
  • (g) For gain, uses a wire communication facility for the transmission or receipt of information assisting in the placing of a bet or offer to bet on any sporting event or contest, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of a bet or offer to bet.'

Are There Any Casinos in Wisconsin?

Those two statutes form the foundation of Wisconsin's largely negative stance on gambling. Casinos are illegal unless they're situated on tribal land and run by the tribes themselves. This exception is based on the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act which passed in 1988. There are currently a number of tribal casinos in operation in Wisconsin offering class 3 casino games – basically everything you'd want from a casino including slot machines, video poker, and all kinds of table games. The legal age for playing in these casinos depends on liquor service; casinos that don't serve liquor can welcome players 18 years of age and older while those that do serve liquor must restrict admittance to players who are least 21.

Is Sports Betting Permitted in WI?

Sports betting takes a funny turn here in Wisconsin. Pari-mutuel betting has been legal for more than half a century, making it perfectly okay for bettors to wager on the outcome of horse or dog races as long as those bets are placed at the race track. The problem is that there are no race tracks currently in operation anywhere in the state. Recently, there has been some lobbying by local tribes to turn the vacant tracks into casinos but so far those attempts have failed.

Wisconsin has a state lottery and it's also a member of the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL)2. In house games, which help fund property tax relief for Wisconsin residents (to the tune of more than $3 billion to date), in include Pick 3, Pick 4, Badger 5, SuperCash!, and Wisconsin's Megabucks. MUSL games include Mega Millions and Powerball. Players must be at least 18 years of age to buy a lottery ticket.

Other Forms of Legal Gambling in Wisconsin

Online Poker Real Money Legal In Wisconsin

Charitable gaming in Wisconsin is limited to bingo games, raffles, and the interestingly named 'duck race raffles' (a raffle in which participants buy the rights to numbered rubber ducks that then race). So-called 'casino nights' are not allowed. These games must be run as part of a nonprofit organization's fundraising efforts and all games require permits issued by the Division of Gaming's Office of Charitable Gaming as well as a seller's permit the organization must get from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. As of this writing, license fees are $10 per bingo game on top of an annual $5 fee. The state also taxes charitable games at a rate of 1% of the first $30,000 of gross annual bingo receipts and 2% of receipts exceeding $30,000.

Social gambling is not technically allowed but law enforcement tends to turn a blind eye if the games are run purely for non-commercial reasons. Those looking to play under the radar know that it's best if participants are acquainted socially prior to the game and the host must not rake or in any other way make a profit (other than by playing and winning fair and square). Running a commercial gambling enterprise out of one's home or business is illegal and the offender risks misdemeanor charges and a stiff fine.

What Are Wisconsin's Online Poker Laws?

There are no laws in Wisconsin that specifically ban online poker or any other kind of internet gambling but those games are assumed to be illegal under existing gambling laws. Whether there are or not is open to judicial interpretation but there doesn't appear to be much zeal on the part of prosecutors to hunt down and charge casual players.

Many residents head online to offshore gambling sites and play without hesitation and those sites are more than happy to help Wisconsinites open an account. If you have any concerns, we recommend you contact a local attorney who specializes in gambling law so you can get some up-to-date advice that may help you play your poker in peace.

Is it Legal to Play Poker in Wisconsin?

You can legally play poker in Wisconsin at the state's tribal casinos. Many of the casinos have live table play and some have dedicated poker rooms that host periodic poker tournaments. You can also host poker games in your home but that's at your own risk – officials tend to ignore casual private games but they are technically against the law.

Will Wisconsin Regulate Online Poker?

The fact that Wisconsin still hasn't legalized commercial casinos is a major stumbling block in the road towards regulating online poker in the state3. It's almost inevitable that commercial casinos would come before online sites and repeated attempts to approve brick-and-mortar casinos has been met with serious resistance. Those in charge seem happy to let the tribes handle the majority of the state's gambling and those tribes would have concerns about a new online gambling program unless they had a stake in the profits.

One solution would be to link the online casinos with existing tribal operations, perhaps allowing the tribes to offer online poker as an extension of brick-and-mortar play. Casinos in Nevada have already tried out this approach and it appears to be working. Some tribes are already on board with that idea. In 2013, the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians joined up with the Tribal Internet Gaming Alliance to launch their own fun-play iGaming site. More than 2,000 players signed up the first month. Though cash play wasn't allowed, the popularity indicates that there is interest in online gambling in Wisconsin and real evolution is possible.

It's likely that progress in Wisconsin will only come on the back of ongoing change in other U.S. states – if online poker is legalized and begins to thrive around the country Wisconsin may well decide to try it out as well.

History of Gambling in Wisconsin

The push and pull of gambling law in Wisconsin dates all the way back to the institution of the state constitution in 1848 which banned lotteries in all forms. A mere decade later, lawmakers followed up with a new rule that made it impossible for the 'house' (in whatever form that may take) to collect gambling debts owed by those who made losing wagers. By the 1900s, betting of any kind was outlawed.

Charitable gambling was first legalized in 1950. Games were limited to bingo, traditional raffles, and duck raffles.

In 1987, Wisconsin legalized pari-mutuel betting. It's still legal to place pari-mutuel bets at a race track but there are no longer and race tracks operating in the state.

Online Poker In Washington State

The Wisconsin Lottery launched in 1988. Play was redefined in 1992 when the state banned Video Lottery Terminals and limited legal lottery games to scratch-off tickets, draw games, and pull-tabs.

Following the passage of the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, Wisconsin began negotiating gambling compacts with some of the state's federally recognized tribes. The first of those compacts was signed in 1992 and there are now 11 tribes in total who have the legal right to operate casinos.

In 2009, Wisconsin's last race track, Dairyland Greyhound Park4, closed its doors for good as a result of flagging public interest.

Citations - Footnotes

  • 1 - Wisconsin Legislature: 945 Gambling
  • 2 - Multi-State Lottery Association
  • 3 - Don't Bet on Gambling in Wisconsin Just Yet
  • 4 - Dairyland Greyhound Park calling it quits Dec. 31