Wisconsin Sports Betting May Expand with Official Approval of Hard Rock Casino

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Feb 27, 2024 07:00 PM
Wisconsin Sports Betting May Expand with Official Approval of Hard Rock Casino

The landscape of Wisconsin sports betting is about to get slightly bigger.

As we wrote about previously, there was a push to get a Hard Rock Casino approved in Kenosha County. And well, on February 6, officials signed the agreement that will allow for the construction of the county’s first casino. 

This outcome, while not unexpected, looms as a huge deal. The Hard Rock Casino in Kenosha County is projected to have a huge economic impact on the area. It also continues to have a fair share of detractors. And beyond that, the country hasn’t yet provided a potential launch date for the casino. Nor is it clear if the Kenosha County Hard Rock Casino will be among the operators allowed to offer sports betting in Wisconsin.

Still, the casino is coming, at some point. And it’s difficult to imagine the folks of Hard Rock Cafe, Inc. committing to the construction of a gambling venue that won’t include a sportsbook. 

The Measure to Bring Hard Rock Casino to Kenosha County Passed by the Skin of Its Teeth

Though many anticipated the Hard Rock Casino of Kenosha County would ultimately be approved, the vote wound up being incredibly close. Some who supported the proposal at one point actually ended up flipping their stance at the last minute. Here’s more on the matter from Christina Van Zeist of Fox 6 in Wisconsin:

“The Kenosha County Board of Supervisors approved the proposal for the Hard Rock Casino in a 10-9 vote. The Menominee tribe would run the Hard Rock Casino. ‘It reached all the local hurdles that it had to,’ Kenosha 16th District Alderman Dominic Ruffalo said. The casino still has to get federal approval, and Gov. Tony Evers has to sign off. But if that gets approved, the casino will go on current farmland near County Highway K off I-94. The development has gotten mixed reactions. ‘At first I was a yes vote, but then I eventually voted no,’ Ruffalo said. He said people in his district are worried about their property value going down.

This isn’t a particularly unique block of reactions under the circumstances. Many were against the legalization of Wisconsin sports betting in the first place. Matters of gambling will always have plenty of detractors and skeptics, including those who shift their stances mid-debate.

Nevertheless, the slim margin by which the Hard Rock Casino in Wisconsin was approved isn’t expected to prevent Governor Evers from signing off. And just as the case was with sports betting in Wisconsin the first time around, the forecasted revenue seems to have sealed the deal here. The Kenosha County Board of Supervisors said they expect the Hard Rock Casino to bring in over $350 million of “economic output.”

Will the Hard Rock Casino in Kenosha County Offer Wisconsin Sports Betting Services?

Federal approval is considered a near-lock for the Hard Rock Casino in Kenosha County, as well. That’s the benefit of working with a legacy gambling provider. Hard Rock is a recognizable name, both in the casino and sports betting industries. 

With that said, it remains to be seen whether Kenosha County’s Hard Rock Casino will offer Wisconsin sports betting. The initial announcement did not mention a sportsbook. “The proposal includes a gaming area with slot machines, game tables, restaurants and bars,” Geist wrote. “It also calls for a Hard Rock Hotel and live venue.”

The smart money is on Hard Rock Casino having a sportsbook in Wisconsin. Most of their other casino locations in states with legal sports betting include them. Hard Rock has also become synonymous with some of the top online sportsbooks in the United States, thanks in large part to a sports betting app that has received rave reviews from other tribes who partner with them.

But Will Hard Rock Casino be Allowed to Operate a Wisconsin Sports Betting App?

Many tend to misunderstand Wisconsin sports betting laws. The Badger State does not allow online sports betting. That leads most to assume that Wisconsin online sports betting apps would be prohibited.

In all actuality, though, the Hard Rock Casino in Kenosha County should be able to offer online sports betting services. However, in order to process transactions, gamblers would still need to be on-site at the casino itself. That’s how it works for the other six locations that offer Wisconsin sports betting in 2024.

Now, some might wonder whether the construction of a Hard Rock Casino could lead to the legalization of Wisconsin online sports betting? It’s not especially likely. At least, it probably won’t happen anytime soon.

Thus far, the state seems content attempting to expand their Wisconsin retail sports betting. Very few officials have shown an appetite for discussing the addition of mobile wagering. And yet, most experts deem the legalization of online sports betting in Wisconsin as an inevitability. It’s tough to blame them, too. Retail sports betting is typically a gateway to offering online operations, even if it doesn’t happen right away. Plus, if the state can open its doors to a corporate operation like Hard Rock Casino, who’s to say it won’t eventually do the same with online sportsbooks that remain itching to crack the Wisconsin market?

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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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