What is a Realistic Timeline for Wisconsin Online Sports Betting?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jun 8, 2023 12:00 AM
What is a realistic timeline for Wisconsin online sports betting?

Now that sports betting in Wisconsin has been legal for almost two years, people are starting to wonder when the market will meaningfully expand. More specifically, they want to know when Wisconsin online sports betting will join the fold. 

America's Dairyland currently only permits on-site wagering at licensed tribal properties. This setup was a welcomed development for sports fans throughout the state at first. The Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act back in 2018. By November 2021, when sports gambling first went live in The Badger State, many other states had already made the transition.

At that time, it didn't even matter that Wisconsin rolled out sports wagering on a limited basis. Only one casino initially was licensed to open a sportsbook. It took a while before more locations popped up throughout the state. But it was still considered a very big deal. Even if the sports betting options were restrictive, the state had opened the door for a broader market. More legal Wisconsin sportsbooks would and have since followed, and eventually, online Wisconsin sports betting would have to be part of the gambling catalog.

That sentiment persists today. But as we approach the two-year anniversary of legal sports gambling in America's Dairyland, one question is being asked more frequently and louder than ever: When will online sports betting be legalized?

Why is Wisconsin Online Sports Betting Becoming a Hotter Topic?

A couple of months ago, we took a look at how the demand for online sports betting throughout Wisconsin was steadily crescendoing. Now, it's time to tackle why the push for details is reaching a fever pitch.

In some ways, this is simply the organic progression of events. On-site sports betting is now a staple. It's entrenched. Sports fans and gamblers naturally want the state to take part in the next thing. In this industry, that is of course online sports betting.

Last year, across the country, more than 75 percent of all legal bets placed were processed with one of the best online sportsbooks in the United StatesThat share is only expected to climb in 2023. Some places have already released data that suggests online sports betting growth in the USA might be even greater than anticipated. Since Kansas debuted legal gambling, for instance, more than 90 percent of all wagers have been processed through an online sportsbook. Wisconsinites in favor of online sports betting are merely conforming to the industry's most overwhelmingly popular trend.

And yet, this increase in chatter is also a convenience matter. Wisconsin now has five legal retail sports betting locations peppered throughout the state. Even though they're spaced out in fairly logical fashion, that's not enough to service such a massive area. Certain members of the population invariably find themselves without easy access to a brick-and-mortar sportsbook. It is an hours-long drive, and that's not a hike many want to make on an annual basis. For some, they're actually closer to out-of-state sportsbooks than they are to one of Wisconsin's five retail locations.

It makes sense that the issue of online sports betting would gain momentum now that people in the state have had time to adjust and digest the current circumstances. Many supporters are likely even new to the advocacy process. Plenty of residents no doubt thought Wisconsin would expand their on-site offerings at a quicker rate than they have so far. Speaking of which...

Comments from Casino CEO About Have Also Fueled Wisconsin Online Sports Betting Debate

Another flash-bulb development that has stoked the online sports betting fire in Wisconsin: Recent comments from the Potawatomi Casino Hotel’s CEO, Dominic Ortiz. “Look, the digital front’s going to come whether I like it or not,” he told Wisconsin NBC Affiliate TMJ4, per The Sports Geek. “For me, the longest runway I could get would be great. I will tell you it’s an inevitable future.”

This would seem to suggest that online sports betting in Wisconsin is somewhat imminent. However, Ortiz also went on to say he thinks it'll be five to 15 years before the state opens up the gambling market to online operators. His exact reasoning isn't clear. But we, like many others, suspect Wisconsin wants to give tribes the ability to capitalize on a more exclusive market and then approach the subject of market expansion down the road.

A five-to-15-year timeline is wide-ranging. That naturally turned heads. But so did the "earliest" timeline. Another half-decade without online sports betting would take Wisconsin to 2028 or later. That's a lifetime when you consider roughly half of the United States has already legalized online gambling.

That number figures to skyrocket over the next five years. And it's disarming to learn Wisconsin might not be a part of that growth when they already legalized in-person wagering.

What's the Most Reasonable Timeline for Online Sports Gambling in Wisconsin?

Truth be told, Ortiz is probably erring on the more tribal-friendly end of his projections. As he admits himself, he has a vested interest in online sports betting remaining as far off as possible.

Mind you, this is absolutely something Wisconsin must grapple with. Tribes may push back against including online sportsbooks over the next few years out of fear that commercial operators will cut into their business. And Wisconsin cannot expect to legalize online sports betting without tribal cooperation.

This makes pinning down an exact timeline impossible. The absolute earliest Wisconsin can legalize online sports betting is 2024. But that seems like a pipe dream. They would need to pass an initiative during next year's legislative meetings and have it on the general election ballot in November 2024. Given that online sports betting wasn't a hot topic among policymakers during this round of legislative meetings, we find it hard to believe that'll change between now and next winter.

Holding out hope for the legalization of Wisconsin online sports betting in 2026 feels more realistic. Whether it's likely is a different story. The discussion has to start among lawmakers first. The 2024 legislative meetings, then, will be a good barometer for where the state stands—and whether Wisconsin online sports betting really is a half-decade or longer away.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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