Has the United States Supreme Court Provided a Road Map to Wisconsin Online Sports Betting?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jul 11, 2024 12:00 AM
Though Wisconsin online sports betting has yet to be legalized, the United States Supreme Court may have opened a new door.

Could the wait for Wisconsin online sports betting soon be over? 

This should be a question tribal casino operators in the Badger State are asking following the latest development for sports betting in Florida. The United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decided not to hear the case brought by West Flagler Associates, a gaming operator based out of the Sunshine State. In doing so, SCOTUS also effectively upholds the Florida sports betting compact with the Seminole tribe. And it’s this part of the equation that could apply to online sports betting in Wisconsin.

What are the Current Laws for Wisconsin Online Sports Betting?

Let’s first start with the current laws for Wisconsin online sports betting. As of July 2024, online sportsbooks in the United States are not allowed to operate inside the market. However, the state has agreed to gaming compacts with various federally recognized tribes in the state. At this time, three of the tribes have Wisconsin sports betting services up and running: The Oneida Indian Nation, Forest County Potawatomi Community, and St. Croix Chippewa.

Various locations throughout the Badger State are set up to accommodate in-person sports betting. As we’ve covered extensively in this space before, though, state officials seemingly don’t have any plans to try legalizing Wisconsin online sports betting anytime soon. 

With that said, tribal operators are permitted to offer a Wisconsin online sports betting app. The catch? Any transaction placed through these Wisconsin online sports betting sites must come from users located on tribal property.

At present, the Oneida Nation is the only tribe with a Wisconsin sports betting app. Users can submit their wagers at any one of their locations scattered throughout the state. 

But what if you’re not near a Oneida Nation casino or one-stop area? Well, then, you’re out of luck—for now anyway.

Here’s Why the SCOTUS Decision in Florida Matters for More Than Just the Sunshine State

So, how does all of this relate back to SCOTUS’ Florida sports betting decision? It starts with the initial issue in the Sunshine State.

West Flagler argued that the Seminole tribe sports betting app violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). After all, the IGRA basically stipulates that all gaming must take place on tribal property. But the Seminole tribe has maintained their Hard Rock sports betting app is an extension of tribal property. Their reasoning is simple yet powerful. The servers that operate the app are located on tribal land. Therefore, the Seminoles believe their Florida online sports betting app is technically another form of tribal land. By their interpretation, they are allowed to offer online sports betting in Florida to anyone in the state. Regardless of location.

Granted, this logic didn’t initially hold up. Florida sports betting was repealed shortly after it rolled out back in 2021. A district court judge ruled in favor of West Flagler. But then, more than a year later, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the gaming compact. And while SCOTUS didn’t necessarily do the same in an official capacity, they essentially co-signed the Seminole tribe’s interpretation by passing on the case.

This is where Wisconsin online sports betting as well as online sports betting in the United States at large comes into play. If the Seminoles’ interpretation of the IGRA allows them to widen their mobile reach, can’t it be the same story for other states?

Wisconsin Tribes Have a Precedent to Broaden Their Reach, But will They Use It?  

Doug Greenberg of ESPN recently outlined how the SCOTUS decision can impact other states:

“[Native American policy group official Mike] Andrews also notes that several states that already legalized sports betting with non-tribal partners could go back and revise their laws with the help of secretarial procedures, which means that tribes can negotiate with the state's Secretary of the Interior on a Class III compact instead of going through a larger legislative process. He believes that Connecticut and New York are ‘ripe’ for it.”

Wisconsin could be “ripe” for it, too. Unlike California, which has over 100 federally recognized tribes, the Badger State features far fewer tribal entities. Revising the current gaming compact to allow for wider-spread Wisconsin online sports betting seems much more plausible. After all, we’re only talking about a handful of tribes. That should, in theory, make negotiations far less complicated.

Of course, it isn’t only the tribes who must show interest. State officials must push for it as well. It’s not clear where general sentiment would land. Some legislators may wish to open Wisconsin online sports betting to larger retail bookies if they’re making any changes. Meanwhile, those concerned with the risks tied to mobile sports betting in the USA won’t suddenly support it just because the Badger State would be rolling it out through tribes rather than corporations.

Still, the nature of current Wisconsin online sports betting laws render the state a prime candidate to make adjustments. SCOTUS’ view of Florida sports betting has opened the floodgates of potential renegotiation and change. Indeed, we don’t know how likely Wisconsin is to explore the avenue now available to them. But we’d be shocked if this didn’t at least come up during next year’s legislature meetings.  

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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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