Is Online poker legal in Wisconsin – Poker Laws in Wisconsin
Wisconsin lags behind some other US states in terms of progressive gambling legislation. Many gambling forms are prohibited, and some, like charitable gaming, exist in a limited capacity.
Nevertheless, despite austere laws, the Badger State has a strong tribal casino infrastructure, counting over two dozen Native American gambling venues. As a result, WI residents can enjoy Class III games, play charitable bingo and raffles, place in-person sports bets, bet on horses, or try their luck with the lottery.
On the other hand, commercial and online gambling are off-limits, and Wisconsin legislators have never discussed legalizing the two industries. Since WI players are at a loss when it comes to locally-regulated online poker, many of them resort to offshore poker rooms.
In this comprehensive online poker guide, we’ll tackle Badger State’s legal landscape and uncover the best poker destinations, live and online.
Is Online Gambling Legal in Wisconsin?
Unfortunately, it isn’t. Online gambling and poker are still off the table in America’s Dairyland. The state has never enacted any poker legalization bill, and no attempt has been made in the legislature to do so.
The only effort to enter the iGaming market occurred in 2013 when the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians introduced a play-for-fun site for their Lake of the Torches Casino Resort. Although the tribe recognized the potential, they didn’t keep the platform alive and closed their poker room soon after.
In other words, online poker is still illegal in Wisconsin, also evident from the fact that the state defines a bet as: “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.”
Regardless of whether you consider it a game of skill or chance, online poker remains unlawful. Section 945.02 of Wisconsin’s Criminal Code states that illegal gambling is punishable as a Class B misdemeanor. Meanwhile, those who attempt to run illicit gambling enterprises may even face felony convictions.
Wisconsin Poker Laws
The best way to learn about Wisconsin’s poker laws and regulations is to refer to its official legal documents. You can explore the following resources:
- Wisconsin Statutes, Criminal Code — Chapter 945 — GAMBLING
- Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA)
- Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006
As mentioned, a legislative proposal that would allow online games or poker in Wisconsin is unlikely. However, this didn’t stop some WI poker players from pursuing their passion. The Badger State is the birthplace of several poker pros, the most famous being Phil “The Poker Brat” Hellmuth.
The Wisconsin native managed to accrue over $29 million in live tournaments and win 16 WSOP bracelets. Moreover, he is the only player in the world who won the Las Vegas WSOP Main Event and WSOPE. Other names that deserve recognition include Joe Kuether, Tony George Dunst, and Amit Makhija.
Speaking of online poker, WI residents are not entirely left in the lurch. One option is visiting sweepstakes sites, which are 100% legal in the state, and the other is registering with an offshore poker platform. The Badger State may lack state-licensed real-money poker sites, but it created a loophole allowing players to join international poker rooms without repercussions.
Offshore platforms are extremely popular with players because of their regular knockout, mystery bounty, freezeout tournaments, and promotions up to $3,000. Check out our list of the best WI poker sites if you want to sign up. Before making any decisions, it would be wise to consult a lawyer or legal professional.
Despite being home to 27 tribal brick-and-mortar casinos and the fact that most have a license to offer Class III games, Wisconsin players can only play poker in two of them — Oneida Casino and Potawatomi Casino Hotel (currently closed for renovations). Both have dedicated poker rooms with 8 and 20 tables, respectively.
In both locations, you can find games such as No-Limit and Limit Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Bravo Poker Live, and Seven Card Stud. Considering that buy-ins range between $3 and $6, even those on a tight budget can afford to play. Their promotions include Bad Beat jackpots. In the past, Potawatomi organized quarterly tournaments, including the famous World Series of Poker Circuit Tour.
Since WI land-based casinos offer limited poker action, many players head to Indiana and Minnesota, as they have more poker rooms and higher cash game selection. Some venues even host poker tournaments seven days a week.
Wisconsin doesn’t address social gambling in its statutes, leading to the assumption that it’s illegal. Although state law enforcement would probably frown upon such activities, you should be fine if you keep it modest and follow certain rules. As long as you refrain from organizing poker games in public places and do not profit from hosting the game, there shouldn’t be an issue.
What Forms of Gambling Are Legal in Wisconsin?
The Badger State’s gambling stance remains conservative despite allowing several different formats. Let’s explore the available and legal options.
At the end of the 1980s, Native American tribes started expressing their desire to open land-based gambling facilities. Their efforts paid off once Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988. The said act paved the way for the legalization of casinos on reservations, and in 1991, the state signed the compacts with the tribes.
The first venue to open its doors was the Potawatomi Bingo Casino (1991) in Milwaukee, which also became the first casino to offer Class III gaming. Over two dozen gambling establishments owned by 11 tribes sprung up in the following years. Currently, the Ho-Chunk Nation has the most establishments (7), while the Potawatomi Nation owns the largest brick-and-mortar gambling facility in the state — the Potawatomi Casino Hotel.
Since tribes are considered sovereign nations, they have a separate body that oversees tribal gaming — the Wisconsin Office of Indian Gaming and Regulatory Compliance. Due to their Class III license, tribal casinos are allowed to host slots and table games like blackjack, roulette, poker, bingo, and several others.
After Wisconsin granted tribes perpetual rights to expand and conduct more gambling games in 2003, there wasn’t much turbulence between the two parties from the legislative standpoint. The most significant change occurred in 2021 when Gov.Tony Evers reached an agreement with the Oneida Nation, allowing them to conduct sports betting exclusively on reservation land.
It’s worth noting that there are no commercial casinos in Wisconsin, and the state legislators have never been interested in their legalization.
Charitable games became part of Wisconsin’s legal framework in 1973 when the state constitution was amended to allow charitable bingo. Raffles were added to the mix four years later. Meanwhile, crane games were part of such events until June 2013. No other forms are currently legal in WI at the moment.
Only charitable organizations, such as fraternal, religious, or veteran associations that have existed for at least three years and acted as a non-profit for one year, can conduct charitable gambling events for fundraising purposes. The maximum prize for any individual bingo contest is $500, and the prize pool for a bingo night must not exceed $2,500. It is important to note that these events are not permitted to offer poker.
The Badger State legalized the state lottery in 1987, and the first ticket was sold the following year on September 14. The State Lottery Commission was appointed to oversee this sector, and everyone who wanted to participate had to be at least 18.
Nowadays, if you want to buy lottery tickets in WI, you must do so in a licensed office or a retail shop, as they are not available online. The WI lottery is quite popular and offers instant scratchcards, pull-tabs, and plenty of drawing games, such as All or Nothing, Badger 5, 10 Buck Luck, Pick 3, and Pick 4.
Additionally, the Wisconsin State Lottery is a member of the Multi-State Lottery Association, so its citizens can play national games like Powerball and Mega Millions.
Wisconsin authorized pari-mutuel wagering on horse, greyhound, and snowmobile racing in 1987. The first track opened in 1990, and at one point, five of them were in operation. In 1995, WI permitted full-card simulcasting at the racetracks. However, this industry didn’t last long since the tribes destroyed market demand. The last track, Dairyland Greyhound Park, closed on December 31, 2009.
It is still possible to make pari-mutuel wagers today, but there are no horse-race tracks within state borders. Still, many individuals place bets on sites like TwinSpires since they are legal in the state and accept WI bettors.
Sports betting legalization has been proposed several times in the Badger State but hasn’t gone too far in the legislative process. Despite the lack of a constitutional amendment allowing regulation of this gambling market, different rules and laws apply to tribes. As a result, they can negotiate the change of the existing compacts with the state.
There were three such amendments that made sports betting legal under the jurisdiction of individual tribes — the compact with the Oneida Indian Nation in 2021 and agreements with St.Croix Chippewa and the Forest County Potawatomi in 2022. Currently, you can enjoy in-person sports betting at six tribal casinos in the Badger State. Sports betting is still illegal outside tribal reservation lands.
Why Should We Play Online Poker?
Since Wisconsin only has two poker rooms, international poker sites seem the obvious choice. Nevertheless, WI residents should not choose these platforms simply because of their ease of access. Here are a few more benefits.
- Convenience — Wisconsin offshore poker rooms are open 24/7. Visiting them doesn’t require traveling, dressing up, or booking a hotel room. You only need a mobile device or computer to be able to play. Furthermore, these sites offer straightforward registration and are easy to navigate.
- Game selection — International poker sites’ game variety is another reason Wisconsin players prefer them over Oneida Casino and Potawatomi Casino Hotel venues. These platforms include a variety of Stud and Draw variants in addition to the player favorites Texas Hold’em and Omaha. Whether you prefer virtual or live dealer titles, joining and finding a table could not be easier.
- Tournament offer — The sparse tournament schedule of brick-and-mortar poker rooms may leave competitive players unsatisfied, which doesn’t happen with offshore brands. Top WI poker rooms on our list run freebies, knockouts, mystery bounties, freezeouts, and many other weekly tournaments.
- Generous rewards — High taxes in the US make it difficult for gambling operators to offer lucrative promotions and rewards. Since offshore casinos aren’t governed by these rules, they provide welcome bonuses worth thousands of dollars and games with seven-figure prize pools.
- Multi-table features — Participants can play at multiple tables simultaneously, something they can’t do at land-based facilities. As a result, this feature increases players’ chances of winning and adds excitement to the game.
- Security — Reputable online poker rooms implement military-grade security measures to prevent fraud. Thanks to SSL encryption and firewalls, your sensitive information is well protected.
- Competitive factor — Offshore poker sites welcome players of all skill levels. Demo mode allows you to practice your abilities and test the games if you are a beginner. Experienced players can choose games with higher buy-ins and betting limits. Plus, some operators have HUD tools that help you refine your strategy. Another great thing is that you can always find someone to play against, regardless of your skill set or budget.
Recent Wisconsin Poker Law Changes
The Badger State rarely passes bills and legislation that regulate the gambling sector. The last poker-related one was enacted in 2014 when the state ordered the Ho-Chunk Madison tribe to remove all electronic poker tables from the premises.
Other than that, Governor Tony Evans signed an agreement with three tribes in 2021 and 2022, granting them the right to conduct in-person sports betting activities.
Future of Poker in Wisconsin
At the moment, the future in Wisconsin doesn’t look too bright. Despite the liberal tendency of neighboring states, America’s Dairyland population and legislative branch are both conservative and slow to accept change.
The state has no commercial casinos, so one can hardly imagine Wisconsin legalizing online casinos and poker without establishing a commercial land-based gambling industry first.
WI has even opposed the legalization of sports betting for quite some time — a gambling sector that is legalized in many US states.
Even though Wisconsin has an array of tribal gambling venues with plenty of bingo and slot games, the choice is quite limited for poker players. Since the legalization of online poker is nowhere on the horizon, residents have found a solution in neighboring states like Indiana, which burst with legal gambling activities, including poker.
Moreover, many poker enthusiasts join offshore poker sites for their game versatility, convenience, and skill-development opportunities. If you are interested, find the best poker rooms at the beginning of this page.
Is online poker legal in Wisconsin?
No, it isn’t. Wisconsin hasn’t legalized online poker yet; thus, there are no state-licensed platforms operating from within the state. As a result, players often register at offshore poker rooms that are not overseen by the Wisconsin Lottery Board.
What’s the legal gambling age for online poker in WI?
The minimum gambling age in WI depends on the type of game and gambling venue — it is 18 for bingo and the state lottery and 21 for tribal casinos. Most offshore poker sites require their users to be at least 18.
Can I play live poker in Wisconsin?
Of course. The fans of authentic gaming experience can either visit Oneida Casino’s poker room or head to Potawatomi’s once the renovations are complete.
Do I have to pay taxes on online poker in Wisconsin?
Yes. If you earn money from online gambling in Wisconsin, you must report it on your income tax return. State taxes vary, but you’ll most likely be obligated to pay around 6.27%. Since you are the one who must report your online wins and not the poker room, it is best to consult with a tax attorney beforehand.
About The Author
Adrian Sterne Editor
Hi, I am the Chief Editor of top10pokersites.net, this site is dedicated to all thing poker. I have been working around the poker industry for the last 15 years, with different brands. The main purpose of this site is to keep you uptodate with the industry and offer you the best deals around.