In 50 years, Wisconsin has completed a 180° flip on its attitude toward betting games after a century of stringent anti-gambling laws – at least as regards casinos. First state law, then the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988 ultimately resulted in the opening of 20 casinos on reservation land. While greyhound- and horse racing tracks have closed for business, Wisconsin’s healthy casino industry makes it among the top Northern states for gambling.
Betting in Wisconsin
Until 1965, Wisconsin had some of the strongest anti-betting laws in the entire U.S., even forbidding mostly harmless national promotional prize draws, and the progress to today’s good casino landscape in the state has been a slow, gradual process. In that year, legislation was passed to allow certain kinds of prize giveaways. In coming years, bans would be lifted in turn on bingo, raffles (no, really, both were essentially illegal in Wisconsin before ’65), greyhound racing and video slots in bars.
When the actual introduction of casinos on Native American land was finally made possible via the federal Indian Gaming Regulation Act of 1988, Wisconsin at first resisted this final step. The state attorney-general at that time negotiated compacts with a number of tribes only to “put the process on hold” before the deal was signed into law. The question of whether to allow Indian gaming in Wisconsin at all was subsequently wrangled over in state-level courts from 1989 to 1992, with nearly all decisions coming down in favor of the Native Americans.
Wisconsin’s current 20 casinos open for business are neatly divided up among 18 cities/towns. Green Bay (with its Mason Street Casino and Oneida Bingo Casino) and Hayward (with the Grindstone Creek Casino and the massive Lac Courte Oreilles Casino, Lodge & Convention Center) are the sole Wisconsin burgs with more than one such gaming outlet. The cities of Milwaukee and Madison actually host gambling within city limits, while most of the other major cities host a casino on the environs.
Football in Wisconsin
Naturally, when one thinks of football in Wisconsin, two things immediately come to mind: The Green Bay Packers and the University of Wisconsin Badgers – and why not? The former is an original NFL franchise, playing its first season in 1919 (and going 10-1, wouldn’tcha know?), two years prior to the formation of the pro-NFL American Professional Football League. Nearly as beloved are the Badgers, a team enjoying a nice run in the 2010s, typically at least in the conversation to make the college football playoffs.
Let’s start with the big one, the Green Bay Packers. Even without the championships, legends, all-time greats and Hall of Famers, the Packers would still be a jewel among NFL franchises for its rarity. With the passing of the Houston Oilers, the Packers have ever since been just one of two NFL teams named for the local blue-collar industry. Its management system is touted as a trading company with stock held by fans and, though it is not such, the Packers fan’s right to vote on certain team issues and the lack of an individual or entity as true owner keeps the uniqueness intact.
Holy Vladimir Lombardi, Batman – that sounds downright communistic, the whole lot of it!
Interestingly, the Packers start in the APFL was to have the team banned from league play. Apparently, the Chicago Bears (née Staleys) owner/coach George Halas reported that the Packers had, in Bizarro UNLV fashion, used college players (!) in a 1920 game. Before Playergate could get out of control, however, the Packers were reinstated with Halas’s payment of $50 (about $650 in 2017 dollars). Because of generally imbalanced scheduling and Green Bay’s late re-entry, they played only six games in 1921, going 3-2-1 and watching the 9-1-1 Staleys take the title.
A seemingly endless run of title- and near-title Green Bay teams began in 1929 with the team’s first NFL championship after posting a 12-0-1 record. They’d ultimately bag the threepeat, with a cumulative 34-5-2 in the three seasons. From 1935 through ’44, things were as good for Curly Lambeau’s Packers as they were bad for the rest of the league: Green Bay won championships in 1936, ’39 and ’44 and lost in the final game in ’38. In the span, the Packers’ *average* season was 8-2-1 or 8-3, good for a first- or second-place finish in their division in every season.
Lambeau was slowly phased out of management and Green Bay suffered through 15 straight years of losing seasons … until Mr. Vince Lombardi came to coach the team for the 1960 season. The 60s saw old-fashioned – which is to say dominant – Packers football reborn. From the 1961 to ’67 seasons, Lombardi’s Packers won five NFL titles, including the first two Super Bowls. Bart Starr, along with Johnny Unitas, helped create the mold for the prototype NFL quarterback that would hold through the 1980s, but the 1960s Packers were, well, packed with future Hall of Famers on both sides of the ball.
Unfortunately for Green Bay, Starr wasn’t half as good at coaching. From 1975 to ’83, Starr coached a run of consistently mediocre teams, finally squeaking his 5-3-1 Packers into the playoffs after the infamous strike-shortened season (the Green Bay scabs had gone 2-1).
Successors Forrest Gregg and Lindy Infante didn’t get much better results out of the Pack, but young Mike Holmgren (hired at the age of 44) combined with the acquisition of a young malcontent quarterback drafted by the Atlanta Falcons named Brett Favre and one of the greatest defensive players of all-time in Reggie White brought a relevance to Green Bay they hadn’t enjoyed in decades – not to mention another Super Bowl win.
Finally, after easing Favre out the door in Green Bay for what seemed like half a decade and about two dozen fake retirements, Aaron Rodgers took over the QBing duties for then third-year head coach Mike McCarthy. Through 2017, this combination has stayed intact. McCarthy’s version of the Packers had earned itself one Lombardi Trophy by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.
In all, Green Bay can claim a record 13 NFL championships, including a pre-Super Bowl era record nine titles; the team has produced the second-most Hall of Famers of any team and (somewhat sanctimoniously) claim the informal nickname of “Titletown.”
The first name in college football for this state is naturally Wisconsin, as in Wisconsin Badgers football. First suiting up in 1889, the Badgers chased its 0-2 mark in that first year with a 106-0 demolishment of University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (née Whitewater Normal School). This was followed by a 63-0 throttling at the hands of the University of Minnesota’s new team, the first of 128 contests between the two going into the 2018 season.
U. Wisconsin is a charter member of the Big Ten athletic division, and has won the conference 14 times from its back-to-back titles in the first two seasons of the Ten in 1896 and ’97 to tis threepeat of 2010 to ’12. Not that the Badgers were slackers in the 20th century, but after over 130 years of play, the Badgers may now be enjoying their golden age: Between 2005 and ‘’17, the Badgers have finished ranked in the top 10 five times. From 2014 to ’17, the Badgers have run up a cumulative 45-10 mark, including a 3-1 record in bowl games; the last of these two seasons, Wisconsin was in the college football playoff committee’s discussions until the final week of the season.
Betting on Football in Wisconsin
While Wisconsinites tend not to be, likesay, bullish on gambling, state legislators appear to be even less so in many areas. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988 was a federal law which more or less stated that Native Americans in most states could open bingo halls and/or slot machine parlors, and Wisconsin soon had such casino sites in their state without a shred of legislation necessary.
However. Wisconsin is one of the few states to have in-built limits to betting. For example, the max wager in a table game is $200, while it’s $5 tops for a slot machine. A game of chance legally allowed in Wisconsin must have a payout percentage of at least 80%; such a mark is no problem for a slot machine operator, as such games routinely pay out in the area of 95%, but such a restriction would make legal fantasy football betting in Wisconsin impossible.
But DFS games aren’t games of chance, are they? Well, that what researchers in Wisconsin, as in some other states, are working on finding out. In 2017, a bill was introduced in the state legislature which would specifically regulate DFS games. Results from the predominance test are still awaited as of this writing in 2018, though…