- There were no Wisconsin sports betting bills introduced during the 2019 legislative session.
- Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana have all legalized sports betting. Minnesota also considered legalizing the activity in 2019 and Michigan still has a chance to do so this year.
- Sports Betting in Wisconsin may come through tribal casinos.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The 2019 NFL football season began last week with a Green Bay Packers victory. Not only did the green and gold come out on top, but so did sports bettors around the country.
The betting odds for the Packers signaled them as underdogs, but after a 10-3 victory in Soldier Field, many cheese heads were left wondering when they would be able to cash in on a Green Bay victory too.
There are now 13 states with active legal sportsbooks, including the Midwestern state, Indiana, and neighboring state, Iowa. Both states were able to consider a legal sports betting bill, sign it into law, and start accepting sports bets in 2019.
Michigan still has a chance to legalize sports wagering, and Minnesota even considered a bill that would allow for gambling on sports at tribal casinos earlier this year.
However, even with every neighboring state having considered or legalized the activity, Wisconsin lawmakers have yet to introduce any legislation to join them.
Why Were There No Sports Betting Bills in Wisconsin?
After the federal prohibition on sports wagering known as PASPA was repealed in May of 2018, state officials were quick to point out that the ruling would have no immediate impact on the Badger State.
“Sports gaming is prohibited by the Wisconsin Constitution state law, and is not allowed under the state tribal compacts,” wrote Steven Michels, spokesperson for the Department of Administration, in an email to the Journal Sentinel following the 2018 ruling.
While other states are able to simply bring about sports gambling through a single legislative session, there are greater barriers for sports betting in Wisconsin to come to fruition.
“That would be the biggest legislative hurdle, is passing it through two consecutive sessions of the legislature, and then having a statewide referendum,” said State Rep. Tyler Vorpagel to the CBS 58 news in May of 2019.
Trying to amend the Wisconsin constitution is enough to keep state representatives and senators wary of introducing any sports gambling bills. Anti-gambling groups are also fighting to keep the activity from coming to the state.
“In order for the government to win, the citizens have to lose,” said Lorri Pickens, executive director of Citizens Against Gambling.
However, proponents in different states will argue that sports betting is already occurring through black market channels and that it would benefit citizens if the state was in charge of the industry.
“We decided that it would be better to actually regulate it through the Iowa Gaming Association to actually provide some regulations and safeguards,” said Iowa State Sen. Pam Jochum.
According to NBC 26 Green Bay, Rep. Vorpagel has similar views on the issue and is looking to communicate with state attorneys on how to bring the industry to Wisconsin.
“People are doing it, and I think it’s better for us if we make sure they’re doing it in as safe and responsible manner as possible,” said Vorpagel.
What About Tribal Casinos And Sports Betting In Wisconsin?
There is one other way that sports betting in Wisconsin could become a reality and it wouldn’t require all the legislative hurdles previously stated.
That route would have to come by Native American tribes in Wisconsin renegotiating their existing gaming compact with the state. However, at the time there does not seem to be a huge push for them to do so.
“We kind of learn to move cautiously, as we’re moving forward. And not wanting to ruin what we have now,” said Wilfrid Cleveland, president of the Ho-Chunk Nation.
There are 11 tribal nations in Wisconsin that operate 26 casinos in total. Each tribe’s stance on the matter could be different, and it would be much easier for them to maintain the status quo.
The possibility is there and tribes have great leverage in states that have gaming compacts. Although, as currently stands, do not expect to see sports betting in Wisconsin during this NFL season.
– In his career, Hasan has worked both local and state government positions—including the Attorney General’s Office in Florida. On top of being familiar with the legislative process, he has also been researching and writing on the legality of sports betting across the US. Outside of work you’ll most likely find him producing or playing music, playing sports, or working on creative writing projects. You’ll also catch him at Doak Campbell Stadium cheering on the Noles.