Is Gambling in Wisconsin Illegal?
For starters, Wisconsin’s gambling laws do not compare to those in Las Vegas. However, some types of gambling are legal in certain areas within the state. Casinos must be located on tribal reservations, and as such, 11 federally recognized Indian tribes currently operate 22 casinos. Although these aren’t commercial casinos, state residents can and often do take advantage of Wisconsin’s local tribal casinos.
You must be at least 18 years old to play bingo, raffles, off-track betting, and the state-run lottery, and to gamble at a tribal casino, you must be at least 21 years old. While many forms of gambling are prohibited in Wisconsin, bingo, raffles, pari-mutuel on-track betting, and the state lottery are legal types of gambling in Wisconsin. Although horse racing is legal, there are no active tracks.
Wisconsin Gambling Laws
Gambling in Wisconsin is defined as a “bargain in which parties agree, dependent upon chance even though accompanied by some skill, one stands to win or lose something of value specified in the agreement.” With this in mind, whoever does any of the following commits the crime of gambling, a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to $1,000 fines and/or 90 days in jail:
- Makes a bet; or
- 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
- Conducts a lottery, or with intent to conduct a lottery, possesses facilities to do so.
Don’t think that making a $5 bet on a basketball game with your friends is illegal, though. Remember, certain types of gambling are permitted at tribal casinos, as we discussed above. The laws are ultimately geared towards commercial gambling, which brings us to our next point.
Commercial gambling is a class I felony punishable by up to $10,000 fines and/or 3.5 years in prison. This crime occurs when a person intentionally does any of the following:
- Participates in the earnings of or for gain operates or permits the operation of a gambling place; or
- 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
- For gain, becomes a custodian of anything of value bet or offered to be bet; or
- 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
- Sets up for use for the purpose of gambling or collects the proceeds of any gambling machine; or
- 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
- 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.
What about people who allow their properties to be used as gambling sites? Permitting a premise to be used for commercial gambling is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to $10,000 fines and/or up to 9 months in prison. This crime occurs when a person:
- Permits any real estate owned or occupied by them or under their control to be used as a gambling place; or
- Permits a gambling machine to be set up for use for the purpose of gambling in a place under their control.
Where Can You Gamble in Wisconsin?
As we discussed before, 11 federally recognized Indian tribes operate 22 casinos throughout Wisconsin. Most of these casinos consist of slots, video poker, blackjack, craps, roulette, and proprietary table games using cards. You can legally gamble at any of the following locations if you are 21 and older:
- Bad River Lodge & Casino – Odanah
- Grindstone Creek Casino – Hayward
- Ho-Chunk Gaming – Black River Falls
- Ho-Chunk Gaming – Madison
- Ho-Chunk Gaming – Nekoosa
- Ho-Chunk Gaming – Tomah
- Ho-Chunk Gaming – Wisconsin Dells
- Ho-Chunk Gaming – Wittenberg
- Irene Moore Activity Center – Green Bay
- Legendary Waters Resort & Casino – Bayfield
- Lac Courte Oreilles Casino – Hayward
- Lake of the Torches – Lac du Flambeau
- Mason Street Casino – Green Bay
- Menominee Casino Resort – Keshena
- Mohican North Star Casino – Bowler
- Mole Lake Casino & Lodge – Mole Lake
- Oneida Bingo Casino – Green Bay
- Potawatomi Hotel & Casino – Milwaukee
- Potawatomi Northern Lights – Carter
- St. Croix Casino – Danbury
- St. Croix Casino – Turtle Lake
- St. Croix Casino Hertel Express – Webster
Down on Your Luck? You’re Not Alone.
A significant number of criminal gambling cases are not prosecuted in Wisconsin. Although we cannot guarantee a favorable outcome in your case, know that the odds could potentially be in your favor with an experienced lawyer on your side. That’s why the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella is right for you.
To speak with our attorney, reach out to our firm online or at (414) 882-8382!