Potawatomi Casino CEO Says Legal Wisconsin Online Sports Betting is Inevitable

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Potawatomi Casino CEO Says Legal Wisconsin Online Sports Betting is Inevitable

For so long, the timeline for online sports betting in Wisconsin has remained non-existent. The Badger State is more than a year into their rollout of on-site gambling and has focused the majority of their efforts on expanding the number of casinos that can accept wagers. The discussion of Wisconsin online sports betting has largely fallen by the wayside.

As such, it is impossible to know when America's Dairyland might join the increasing number of states that have legalized mobile wagering. But that doesn't mean the prospect is entirely off the table.

On the contrary, the debut of online sports betting in Wisconsin isn't considered an issue of if. Instead, it's viewed as a matter of when—including by those who have every reason to push back against the idea.

Hotel Casino CEO in Makes Bold Proclamation About Wisconsin Online Sports Betting

Dominic Ortiz is the CEO of Potawatomi Hotel Casino, which now counts itself among the establishments in The Badger State with an on-site sportsbook. Like every other tribal casino, Potawatomi should theoretically be against the legalization of mobile online sports betting. That decision invariably brings in outside corporations with more experience and larger reaches in the digital sector. These online operators are often viewed as existential threats to casino business models, which can, in turn, invite a contentious dynamic.

Consider what happened to California sports betting this past fall. The state wound up with two gambling initiatives on their general election ballot. One was backed by tribal casinos (Proposition 26). The other was bankrolled by online operators (Proposition 27). The two sides spent hundreds of millions of dollars campaigning against one another. In the end, neither of the California sports betting bills were approved by state voters. And here's the real kicker: This was seen as a victory for tribal casinos. While they still cannot offer sports betting services, they successfully prevented corporate online operators from infringing upon a business model that's largely predicated on foot traffic.

Of course, though tribal casinos continue to battle corporate online sportsbooks, even they have to understand they're essentially delaying the inevitable. In fact, if you gave every tribal leader truth serum, we'd pretty much guarantee that they'd all say they see legal online sports betting as a huge part of the future.

This brings us back to Mr. Ortiz, the CEO of Potawatomi Hotel Casino and Wisconsin. He actually said the quiet part out loud: that tribal operations won't be able to prevent the implementation of online sportsbooks forever. Consider this recent exchange between Ortiz and a reporter, as relayed by TMJ4.com:

"Wisconsin is one of nine states that have entered the retail landscape, meaning sports bets need to be placed on casino property. 'Would you be opposed to online sports betting in Wisconsin?' TMJ4 reporter Ben Jordan asked. 'Look, the digital front’s going to come whether I like it or not,' Ortiz replied. 'For me, the longest runway I could get would be great. I will tell you it’s an inevitable future.'"

When Will Wisconsin Online Sports Betting be Legalized?

Ortiz speaks nothing but the truth. Estimates suggest that over 80 percent of all legal wagers placed during the 2023 calendar year will be submitted through one of the best online sports betting sites in the United States. And that figure is expected to be higher in states similar to Wisconsin, where not everyone has convenient access to casinos.

That raises the question: When will Wisconsin legalize online sports betting? As we've already mentioned, a definitive timeline remains unclear. But Ortiz believes it's roughly "five to 15 years" away. 

That's...a long time. It will be considered too long for many. But it's probably accurate. Wisconsin would need to amend their state constitution and put an online betting measure to a general election vote if they're going to legalize it. They will only have an opportunity to go that route once every two years. And since online sports betting isn't on this year's legislation agenda, any chance of rolling it out before 2025 is effectively dead.

Granted, nobody can predict the future with picture-perfect precision. Maybe Wisconsin online sports betting becomes a priority at the next round of legislative meetings and begins tracking toward 2026 legalization. Then again, while this is possible, we wouldn't bet on it.

Why Wisconsin Still isn't Embracing Online Sports Betting Measures

As oversimplified as this answer might seem, on-site sports betting is still too new in Wisconsin for the state to reimagine their focus.

Barely any casinos have licensed and operational sportsbooks at the moment. The Potawatomi Hotel Casino is among the very few, and even their operations are fairly new. State officials have instead made it a priority to bring sports betting to as many of their 26 active casinos as possible. At this writing, though, the number of casinos in Wisconsin with legal sports betting currently sits at...two. 

Clearly, America's Dairyland has a lot of work to do before they wrap up their brick-and-mortar sports betting efforts. On the bright side, this process is expected to speed up heading into the fall of 2023.

Whether that puts online sports betting in Wisconsin on a faster track remains to be seen. More likely than not, the state needs to take stock of an entire year's worth of gambling revenue in an expanded on-site market before setting their sights to the digital sector. Loosely translated: As Ortiz alludes to, there's a solid, if not incredibly strong, chance that Wisconsin online sports betting won't be legalized until sometime in the 2030s.

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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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