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Currently, most poker options available for residents in Wisconsin are few and far between.
Wisconsin’s laws pretty much sum it up:
Whoever does any of the following is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor:
(1) Makes a bet; or (2) Enters or remains in a gambling place with intent to make a bet, to participate in a lottery, or to play a gambling machine; or
Sorry, chief – if it’s not regulated, exempted or permitted, it’s illegal.
And as you’re about to find out, that means most of your poker options are off the table.
Social Poker Not Legal in Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s statutes do not permit social or home poker games. So, by hosting or participating in a game you’re committing a crime per the statute above.
As well as this one:
(4) GAMBLING PLACE . (a) A gambling place is any building or tent, any vehicle (whether self-propelled or not) or any room within any of them, one of whose principal uses is any of the following: making and settling bets; receiving, holding, recording or forwarding bets or offers to bet; conducting lotteries; or playing gambling machines.
With that being said, we have not heard of anyone being arrested or of any games being broken up. So, chances are you could get away with a game if it’s just between you and your friends.
Your mileage will vary, of course.
Online Poker Statutes in WI
It’s illegal. Plain and simple.
Wisconsin isn’t one of those radical states, though, where they flip out and go after offshore sites – should you choose to go that route and play on one.
So, chances are you could get away with playing at one or two of them.
It looks like that’s your only option for the foreseeable future, too. Poker players (wanting legal options) are definitely in the minority.
For example, back in June 2012, a group called Wisconsin Family Action was one of many groups from 13 different states to write and ask congress to ban online gambling on the federal level.
The state’s Governor at the time, Scott Walker, said he would only allow gambling expansion in the state if the tribes would accept banishing online gambling (per his online gambling clause).
Adding insult to injury, there hasn’t been talks discussing online poker in the state since Walker’s stance on the issue was made public knowledge.
So, the chances of there being regulated online poker in Wisconsin is slim, to say the least.
Playing on Offshore Poker Sites Online
Offshore poker sites are your only option. Just know they’re operating in Wisconsin illegally:
945.03 Commercial gambling.
(1m) Whoever intentionally does any of the following is engaged in commercial gambling and, except as provided in sub. (2m), is guilty of a Class I felony:
(g) For gain, uses a wire communication facility for the transmission or receipt of information assisting in the placing of a bet or offer to bet on any sporting event or contest, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of a bet or offer to bet.
Live Poker Options in Wisconsin
The one option you do have – live casino poker.
There are 16+ Indian casinos in the state. And it sounds like many of them spread poker games.
You can get more details on each casino by visiting the 500 Nations website: http://500nations.com/Wisconsin_Casinos.asp
What Does The Future Hold For Wisconsin?
Reports suggest we’ll see regulation as early as 2018 or 2019.
First, there are groups writing congress trying to get them to ban it on a federal level.
Secondly, you have a governor that is only willing to agree to brick and mortar expansion if everyone involved agrees to ban online gambling within the state.
It just doesn’t sound like anyone truly wants regulated online gambling.
The only attempt I’ve seen anyone make in favor of poker is the PPA and the grassroots organization, Legal Poker in Wisconsin.
It sounds like they’re trying to get the courts to define poker as a game of skill.  The idea is to get poker labeled as a skin game so that it would be legal to run bar games, private poker rooms, home games and leagues.
To help their case they brought on Robert Hannum to testify. He’s known for consulting for ShuffleMaster, the Mississippi Gaming Commission and the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission.
According to Mr. Hannum:
“It is my considered opinion, based on my experience, on research that I have personally conducted, and on a review of the scholarly literature, that Texas hold’em is a game in which skill predominates over chance in determining the outcome. Thus, in my opinion, it would be incorrect to describe Texas hold’em as a game of chance.”
Put another way: the question of whether skill or chance predominates in Texas Hold’em is the same as asking whether the deal of the cards or the decisions of the players constitute the predominant factor in determining the outcome of the game. In my opinion, Texas Hold’em is not a game of chance because the decisions of the players have a much larger impact on the outcome than the deal of the cards.”
I agree. But will the courts?
Let’s hope so, because as of right now it’s the only effort being made to push poker forward in Wisconsin.