Is Wisconsin Sports Betting Improving Casino Industry Revenue?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Oct 6, 2023 12:00 AM
Has Wisconsin sports betting helped drive casino revenue?

Although Wisconsin sports betting officially debuted in November 2021, the revenue generated from it remains a mystery. 

This runs counter to most states. The vast majority release their sports betting revenue figures on a month and/or annual basis. But because sports betting in Wisconsin is limited to licensed tribal casinos, The Badger State isn’t required to do the same. Retail sports gambling was achieved through amending the exclusive gaming compact with local tribes. It was not put to a vote on a general election ballot. That pathway, while more popular in the USA, is reserved for states looking to amend their constitutions. And since Wisconsin wasn’t looking to let online sportsbooks in the United States enter their market, they went the gaming-compact route.

Still, just because Wisconsin sports betting revenue isn’t public knowledge doesn’t mean it’s not important. On the contrary, revenue reports provide insight into the economic impact of legal sports betting. In this case, and others like it, they can also help show whether legal retail sports betting alone is enough.

In the absence of sports betting-specific revenue reports, we can turn to the profits generated by the casinos themselves. If their business is on an upward trajectory, then it’s safe to assume retail sports betting in Wisconsin is a success. But is that the case here? 

Rollout of Wisconsin Sports Betting Helped Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee Increase Year-Over-Year Revenue

To help get an idea of how Wisconsin sports betting is performing, we’ll look at the year-over-year reports for the Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee. Their financial vitals are especially telltale because they didn’t launch sports betting services until early 2023. And although they were late to the party, it seems as if the rollout is having a positive impact on their business. From the Associated Press:

“Gamblers lost at least $415 million at the Forest County Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee over the last fiscal year, about 1.7 percent more than they lost the previous year. Wisconsin tribes’ casino revenue is confidential, but the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was able to calculate the figures, since the Potawatomi pay the city and county of Milwaukee 1.5 percent of its net win. The tribe paid about $5.9 million to each government entity for the year that ended June 30. That compares with $4.4 million to each entity in 2021. The net win doesn’t include revenue generated by the casino’s restaurants, concerts and hotel. The tribe also is required to pay the state $20 million as part of its gaming compact.”

On the one hand, the increase in revenue is a good sign. On the other, an increase of under 2 percent isn’t exactly groundbreaking. It doesn’t even matter that we can’t parse the details and determine the exact amount of Wisconsin sports betting revenue generated by the Forest County Potawatomi casino. Even if the legalization of sports gambling is entirely responsible for this uptick, it’s negligible enough that we need to raise another question.

Why Isn’t Wisconsin More Seriously Considering the Expansion of Sports Betting Services?

Put another way: Why isn’t there a more prominent push for Wisconsin online sports betting?

States that offer only on-site wagering tend to view it as a protective measure. Sure, sometimes the local government’s hands are tied. If tribes with gaming exclusivity aren’t open to adjusting their gaming compacts and supporting constitutional amendments that allow corporate sportsbooks to enter the market, there is little recourse for the state legislature. For the most part, though, states with only retail betting are hyper-focused on preserving tribal revenue streams. 

Allowing the best online betting sites in the USA to enter the fold creates additional competition for casinos who rely on foot traffic and who might not have experience running online sports betting apps. Theoretically, corporate sportsbooks also don’t reinvest their revenue into the state itself. 

Most of the top online betting sites operating in the United States are based in flagship markets. Allowing a company like FanDuel or DraftKings to offer sports betting in Wisconsin technically won’t create many drives or generate additional funding beyond the tax rates they pay.

With that Said, Expect Wisconsin Online Sports Betting to Become a Hotter Topic Soon

Given what appears to be only a modest increase in Wisconsin casino revenue during the legal sports betting era, you better believe a stronger push for online wagering is coming. And that push might even come from some of the state’s tribes.

Indeed, high-ranking members of certain tribes have set the timeline for Wisconsin online sports betting somewhere between five and 15 or more years. But this likely presumed their current business models would experience larger growth from the legalization of in-person sports betting. That doesn’t seem to have transpired. And waiting for things to improve may not fly.

Wisconsin casinos will only be harder-pressed to drive up their revenue moving forward. Three new casinos are expected to open soon in the state of Illinois. At least two of them will be located close to the border of Wisconsin. So, not only will they lose clientele from Illinois, but some in-state residents will actually have an easier time traveling outside the region.

Combine this with the constantly increasing number of people who prefer to bet on sports online rather than on-site, and the clock is ticking on Wisconsin’s legal gambling model. This doesn’t mean they will rush to legalize Wisconsin online sports betting. But it should certainly mean the state is at least more open to the idea. 

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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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