Online Casinos & Gambling Guide for WI players
Wisconsin's state motto may be "forward," but that motto doesn't seem to be used when it comes to legal gambling. Like many other US states, gambling activities are strictly regulated here, and apart from a few types of games, tribal casinos are the only places where you can try your luck. Luckily, you're not limited to them: there may be no online casinos in Wisconsin, but the internet is full of options. In the list below, you can see the best casino sites that you can join and start playing right away. We chose them because they are fair, safe, reliable, and licensed: you can choose any one without wasting time searching for the best online casino in Wisconsin. To learn about the current legal status of gambling in this state, read on.
Gambling in Wisconsin
Wisconsin was one of the first states to ban gambling and even added it to its constitution. Since the 19th century, both games of chance and skill have been considered illegal. We can say that the situation has not changed much in the 21st century. There are many laws governing gambling, and you can find an up-to-date list here. In general, we can say that it is organized between WI Statues chapters 562 – 945. There is no need to waste your time reading all of these. We have prepared a short summary for you:
- Gambling has been considered illegal since 1839. This even included lotteries for a long time.
- However, until the 1940s, there was a gambling den in almost every part of the state, and Wisconsin was home to the highest number of slot machines after Nevada. The state turned a blind eye to these for a while for various reasons.
- To solve this problem, the Thomson Antigambling Law in 1945 gave government officials the authority to search and seize gaming equipment without the need for a court order, and illegal gambling dens were eliminated. (Most of the provisions of this law regarding seizure still remain valid.)
- In 1973, bingo halls were legalized, and the Division of Gaming was established to handle licensing and inspection. In the same year, betting on thoroughbred horse racing was also legalized (as long as it was on-track).
- Raffles were made legal in 1977.
- In 1987, the state lottery was legalized.
- In 1991, a law allowing floating casinos (Chapter 567 of the Wisconsin Statutes) came into effect in order to move slot machines, which were again becoming common in taverns, beyond state borders. This law made 4 boat-casinos legal as long as they remained on the lakes surrounding the state. Other than tribal casinos, these are still the only legal casinos in Wisconsin.
We would like to extend the list, but that's all: apart from boat casinos and tribe lands, there is no casino within the borders of the state, and this naturally applies to Wisconsin online casino sites as well. In other words, you won't find online casinos in Wisconsin because the state does not even have land-based versions. Horse racing and dog racing betting are allowed, provided they are only on-track, but that's about it. In general, we can say that there is a strict ban on gambling and its roots go back to the founding of the state.
The Division of Gaming is the agency responsible for inspecting and licensing bingo halls, raffles, and boat casinos. There are approximately 450 licensed bingo halls in the state, and a license is issued for an average of 9,000 raffles each year. You must be at least 18 years old for bingo, raffle, or on-track betting, while the age limit for boat/tribal casinos is 21. Wisconsin laws contain very heavy sanctions for illegal gambling operators, but these do not apply to players and online/offshore gaming is not regulated in any way. In other words, you cannot play at a Wisconsin online casino because there is no such thing, but you can try your luck at any internet casino that accepts you as a member: there is nothing preventing this.
Many states have legalized sports betting since the U.S. Court PASPA ruling in 2018, but Wisconsin is not one of them. Only betting on thoroughbred horse racing and dog racing is allowed within the state, and to do so, you have to go to the track (on-track betting). Most of these are very close to Lake Michigan. To give some examples of tracks where it is legal to bet:
- Plymouth Dirt Track Racing
- Shawano Speedway
- Lucky Bob's Raceway
- Running Aces Casino, Hotel & Racetrack
- Dodge County Fairgrounds
It is not possible to find a betting booth in the state, and there are various restrictions in terms of the types of bets you can place on the tracks, only pari-mutuel wagering is allowed. As a result of this, it is not possible to find any online bookmaker too. However, since the pandemic quarantines in 2020, the number of horse & dog races has decreased greatly, and most of the tracks have closed. If these types of betting are not allowed online in the near future, this industry could be under serious threat.
Boat and tribal casinos allow all types of sports betting, but they cannot offer their services online. In other words, if you want to place a sports bet, you have to go to these casinos.
You won't be able to find the best online casino in Wisconsin and your options for casino games are pretty limited, but you can still enter the state lottery. This is a lottery run by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue and was first held in 1998. Since it is a member of the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL), it also sells Mega Millions, Powerball, and Megabucks tickets. It also offers Pick 3, Pick 4, and scratch card games. Interestingly, it is possible to participate in some of these games online (via the official lottery site). You can play Pick 3, Pick 4, Badger 5, Super Cash and All or Nothing games using the website. It is not a Wisconsin online casino, but it is the only legal option where you can try your luck online.
You can also check the draw results from the official site or see the locations of authorized sellers for tickets. The Wisconsin lottery also has its own TV and radio channels and even has a YouTube account. Since 2020, Pick 3, Pick 4, and All or Nothing draws are held twice every day.
Slot machines were quite common in Wisconsin until the 1940s, but they disappeared after the law we mentioned above. In the 90s, they returned to taverns under the name “video game terminal”, but to prevent them, it was decided that they could only be played in boat and tribal casinos. In other words, there is currently no place within the state to play slot machines, and since there are no online casinos in Wisconsin, you can't do it from home either.
You can find them if you go to boat casinos or tribal lands, but their numbers will be quite limited – boat casinos already have certain space restrictions, and tribal casinos are not very large compared to their counterparts in other states. If you want to try your luck at slot machines, we recommend you take a look at the Wisconsin online casino list we have prepared for you: these internet casinos will give you easy access to thousands of slots.
If you're looking for the best online casino in Wisconsin to play table games like roulette, blackjack, poker, and baccarat, you'll be disappointed: just like slot machines, they're not allowed. Your only option to play traditional table and card games is to visit boat – tribal casinos. (Of course, you can also choose one of the internet casinos we recommend and play all these games with advantageous bonuses.) Bingo and raffle are the only games allowed within the borders of Wisconsin. And although bingo halls tried to offer games of skill (for example, poker) for a while, these attempts were not successful. There are no poker rooms/clubs too.
Land Based Casinos
Land-based casinos are limited to tribal lands. Like all other US states, Wisconsin has lands owned by different tribes, and they are free to enforce their own laws within their borders. Currently, 11 tribes live in these lands and operate 22 casinos. To give some examples:
- Bad River Lodge & Casino – Odanah
- Ho-Chunk Gaming – Madison, Nekoosa, Tomah, Wittenberg
- Legendary Waters Resort & Casino – Bayfield
- Mole Lake Casino & Lodge – Mole Lake
- Potawatomi Hotel & Casino – Milwaukee
As one might guess from this list, most of them are located around Lakes Michigan and Lake Superior. They are not very big casinos, but they offer all the traditional games and also accept sports bets. All Wisconsin residents can enter them, as long as they are 21 years old. Tribal casinos are subject to special federal laws and are not controlled by the Division of Gaming. And unfortunately, they are not located near populated areas: you have to take a long journey to visit these casinos. For the same reason, they cater mostly to tourists visiting the Lakes region, rather than Wisconsin residents.
In addition, as we mentioned above, there are boat casinos. They can cruise Wisconsin lakes and rivers, offering casino games, just like the Mississippi boats of centuries ago. For example, you can board the boat called “Casino Queen” from Marquette and take a cruise along the Upper Mississippi River. Unlike tribal casinos, these are regulated by the Division of Gaming. If you would rather not play at a Wisconsin online casino and cannot afford the long journey to tribal lands, they represent the best option to try your luck. That being said, remember that these are not big ships and they contain a small number of games, mostly limited to slot machines, roulette, blackjack, and poker.