Wisconsin Online Sports Betting Still without Timeline for Legalization

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Mar 21, 2023 08:00 PM
Wisconsin Online Sports Betting Still without Timeline for Legalization

On-site sports betting in Wisconsin has been legal for over a year now. It debuted in November 2021, exclusively at the Oneida Casino in Green Bay. Skip forward to March 2023, and, well, nothing's changed. The Oneida Casino is still the only place in the state with a sportsbook. And what's more, Wisconsin online sports betting remains without a timeline for legalization.

On some level, this isn't too surprising. Expanding the brick-and-mortar gambling market was always going to take priority over the online-wagering agenda. The Badger State didn't show too much interest in mobile betting to begin with. Stakeholders worried that it would direct revenue outside the state, toward corporate sportsbooks that would pay their taxes without creating jobs or foot traffic.

Still, the increased popularity of online sports betting in the United States lends itself to reconsideration. The vast majority of legal wagers placed in the USA during the 2022 calendar year were submitted online, and that market share is only supposed to climb in the coming years. Over half of all states now also offer mobile betting. States that don't are behind the curve, even if they tout in-person betting options.

With this in mind, select officials in Wisconsin started pushing for online sports betting after Illinois debuted their own wagering systems. Despite offering in-person gambling, Wisconsin is still losing sports betting revenue to its neighbor. That was supposed to create some semblance of urgency to join the online-wagering ranks.

As of now, though, it doesn't seem like it has.

Why Wisconsin Online Sports Betting Hasn't Been Legalized

Poke around, and you will find plenty of reasons why Wisconsin sports betting still hasn't been legalized. Jason Lopez, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, recently laid out the most important ones while speaking with WMTV, an NBC affiliate in Wisconsin:

"Although it’s known to generate plenty of revenue, Lopez said there’s some concerns that may hold back Wisconsin legislators from legalizing online sports betting. A major one being gambling responsibly. 'When it comes to gambling and when it comes to states legalizing it or thinking about the benefits and drawbacks of gambling, there’s always going to be this kind of push and pull between availability as well as making sure that people are playing responsibly,' Lopez said. He also said if online sports betting does become legal in Wisconsin, it raises concern for an increase in gambling addictions."

This is a concern shared by every state that has thought about or ultimately legalized sports betting. And it's a well-founded one. There is a correlation between the legalization of sports betting and an increase in calls to gambling addiction hotlines and other services across the USA. 

In some cases, this concern has prevented the legalization of sports betting altogether. In Wisconsin's case, they decided in-person sports betting wouldn't be as harmful. It requires more steps and security to access. It's also easier for the state to monitor. But does that actually make it safer?

Is In-Person Sports Betting Actually Safer Than Online Sports Betting?

For now, legal Wisconsin sports betting as it's currently set up is safer without access to online wagering. Emphasis on for now.

Much of this extra safety is borne from a lack of access. Only one Wisconsin casino currently houses a sportsbook. But that number is scheduled to increase over time.

Though it has taken longer than anticipated, The Badger State continues to actively explore expansion of on-site gambling. A new sportsbook is expected to debut at the Potawatomi Casino Hotel in Milwaukee, and there are 20-something other casinos inside the state that could vie for betting licenses. 

Access and advertising will become more prevalent as Wisconsin opens more sportsbooks. At that point, the "safety through controlled opportunity" approach starts to lose a lot of validity.

Meanwhile, this all says nothing of the online sports betting already taking place in Wisconsin. Not only can residents drive to Illinois and place wagers from anywhere, but there continue to be plenty of sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks that permit almost anyone in the United States to make an account—no matter where they live.

Online Sports Betting in Wisconsin is Inevitable, but When Will It Debut

Yes, despite concerns, Wisconsin online sports betting is nevertheless inevitable. It is the natural progression for a state that already legalized one form of gambling and is looking to expand it. Also, as Professor Lopez noted to WMTV: "The fact that it is legal in Illinois and the fact that it is legal in Iowa definitely, sort of, sets the groundwork for this to be something that should maybe be available here in Wisconsin as well."

So...when will legal online sports betting come to Wisconsin? It's impossible to say. It isn't a primary talking point during 2023 legislature meetings, which makes an imminent approval unlikely. Wisconsin probably needs to complete the expansion of casino sportsbooks before tackling the online issue.

And when the state is finally ready to talk about an online sports betting bill, there must also be plans in place to address the threat of increased gambling addictions. Other states have addressed their own concerns by using sports gambling revenue to bankroll programs that help combat and treat gambling addiction. This seems like a no-brainer course for Wisconsin to travel. But will they take any additional measures? For example, could they opt to cap and monitor how much companies spend on advertising within state lines?

Everything is seemingly on the table. We just can't be sure when any of it will take effect. Of course, give the current state of affairs, it's safe to assume Wisconsin online sports betting remains years away.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs:

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...

Online Sports Betting may receive compensation if you sign up through our links. Rest assured, we avoid biases and provide honest opinions on sportsbooks. Read more here.