Sports Betting in Wisconsin Expected to be Worth More Than Expected

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Sep 4, 2022 08:00 PM
Sports Betting in Wisconsin Expected to be Worth More Than Expected

Sports betting in Wisconsin has not been legal for long, and yet, if the most recent figures are to be taken as fact, the rollout is already expected to beat out the projected revenue for Year 1—and beyond.

There's no understating the importance of this development. While many other states have exceeded their initial revenue estimates, legal sports betting within Wisconsin came attached to a bunch of conditions that many worried would repress their inaugural earnings. Not only did they allow just one casino to open an on-site sportsbook to start, but they didn't allow casinos at large to join the online sports betting ranks, leaving that business instead to heavyweights that operated outside the state such as DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars, BetMGM and others.

It not turns out those concerns were over the top. Wisconsin's sports betting business has kept in line with the rest of legal sports betting throughout the United States, increasing their projected revenue by 177 percent just a few months into the process. There a number of factors that have seemingly made this possible—and all of them point to Wisconsin continue to obliterate revenue forecasts.

Especially if they open up their access to sports betting licenses.

How Wisconsin Beat Sports Betting Revenue Projections

Believe it or not, a lot of Wisconsin's good fortune is tied to the NFL, and more specifically, the Green Bay Packers.

First off, it helped a ton that the state rolled out legal betting just in time for gamblers to work odds on the Super Bowl. Sports betting went live in Wisconsin, at the Oneida Casino in Green Bay, on February 10, roughly 72 hours before the big game. Though it was a close call, that three-day is believed to have been worth hundreds of millions in wagers placed at the casino and with online sportsbook operators.

Projecting even further ahead, the future of the Packers has loomed large in Wisconsin's sports betting business. Many expected superstar quarterback, reigning MVP and inevitable Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers to exercise his trade clause over the offseason, a move that would have thrust the franchise into a rebuild and capped the interest local and national fans would've had in placing bets on the team. But Rodgers instead stayed with the organization, a development that has significantly increased the amount of money being funneled to NFL and Green Bay Packers futures.

Along similar lines, the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA also helped the cause. By remaining near the top of the Eastern Conference and putting forth a valiant title defense to last season's championship, they ensured bettors remained engaged—and, thus, spending—during the first half of the 2022 NBA playoffsOn top of that, the Milwaukee Brewers have made more noise than anticipated during the 2022 MLB season, adding yet another layer of intrigue for sports fans within the state. 

This isn't rocket science. When local sports teams are good, the more fanbases are engaged and following along, the more money those fanbases are willing to wager on any given game or tent-pole event.

Wisconsin Sports Betting Estimates Undershot Potential from the Start

Another factor playing a part in Milwaukee's lucrative start to legal sports betting is the extent to which their initial projections were too conservative. Gaming experts and government officials just assumed they would be impacted by a reserved population. Milwaukee is not only loaded with people espousing conservative political views, who historically tend to oppose sports betting, but the state ranks 22 out of 50 in total population.

Granted, if you're going to miss on sports betting estimates, you're better off aiming too low rather than too high. But the writing was arguably always on the wall. Wisconsin, for starters, titled liberal during the last presidential election, suggesting a larger openness to sports betting among the general population. More than that, there are states with similar sports markets that raked in a lot more money from gambling than Milwaukee projected for themselves.

Take legal sports betting in Colorado. They took in between $400 and $500 million in total bets during every month of 2021. (For the record: This isn't all revenue. Sportsbooks must payout winning wagers, and the state gets a cut of what remains.) That was a reasonable range of business for Wisconsin to expect. Colorado's biggest sports market (Denver) is similar in size to Wisconsin's (Milwaukee), and both states have between 5.8 and 6.0 million residents, according to the latest census data.

Wisconsin Sports Betting has Plenty of Room to Grow

Perhaps the most encouraging sign of all for Wisconsin is the circumstances under which they've beat out projections for bets placed each month. Remember: Wisconsin still hasn't implemented widespread brick-and-mortar sportsbooks in other casinos. Nor have they have allowed casinos within their state lines to join the online sportsbook ranks.

All of that's expected to change in due time. Wisconsin was already supposed to award more sportsbook licenses to casinos and is currently running behind. Most believe they will eventually relent and also open up online operations, where they're currently leaving a ton of money on the table. Think about it: Milwaukee residents can already sign up and place bets at any one of the operators featured in our reviews of the top online sportsbooks. Some of that business will be redirected toward domestic online sportsbooks if Wisconsin casinos are given the green light to run their own.

Regardless of how long it takes to broaden the state's sports betting horizons, though, one thing's for sure: Legal sports betting in Wisconsin has, so far, been a resounding success.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can decide which one to use for all of your sports betting:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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