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Possession of a Gambling Device in Wisconsin

Possession of Gambling Devices in Wisconsin

Are You Legally Allowed to Own or Operate Slot Machines Outside of Casinos?

Wisconsin has gambling laws which limit the ownership and possession of gambling devices. Yet there are places in Wisconsin where these devices, ranging from traditional slot machines to modern video gambling machines, are perfectly legal. As a result, the legality of possessing gambling machines is unclear. If you are being charged with possession of gambling devices, contact Milwaukee’s top defense lawyers for a consultation.

What counts as a gambling machine in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin state statute 945.01(3) defines a gambling machine as any “contrivance which for a consideration affords the player an opportunity to obtain something of value”. The most common type of device is a standard slot machine. Devices which are not considered gambling machines include pinball arcades and crane games. Video poker machines may be considered gambling devices if there is a payout for players.

Commercial Gambling Devices in Milwaukee Bars and Taverns: For Entertainment Use Only?

Commercial gambling is illegal in Wisconsin with a few very specific exceptions. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue is responsible for enforcing the laws yet countless video poker machines and slot games can be found in bars and restaurants across the state. The penalties for gambling machine ownership increases per device:

  • 1 machine: $500 forfeit maximum
  • 2 machines:  $1,000 forfeit maximum
  • 3 machines: $1,500 forfeit maximum
  • 4 machines: $2,000 forfeit maximum
  • 5 machines: $2,500 forfeit maximum

Tribal casinos are exempt to these rules due to a state compact. Any other commercial establishment with these devices is at risk of being charged with possession. It often depends on local law enforcement’s interpretation of what constitutes a gambling device.

Possession of Gambling Device in WI

Examples of Legal Gambling in Wisconsin

  • Lottery contests
  • Bingo hall games
  • Raffles
  • Charity games
  • On-track racing bets (horse and dog)

Private Gambling Machining Ownership

Individuals owning more than 5 gambling devices are subject to criminal charges. Possession of 5 or fewer may result in civil forfeiture but no charges. However, the exact penalties will depend on the specifics of your case. Certain exceptions exist for private individuals who own slot machines which are more than 25 years old. However, even owning gambling device paraphernalia can put you on the wrong side of the law.

Selling a gambling device like a slot machine is another gray area of gambling law in Wisconsin. Transporting a gambling device into the state is unlawful.

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Criminal Defense Law Firm with Offices in Milwaukee, Brookfield, and Madison

Possession of gambling devices in Milwaukee or Madison may be legal depending on your circumstances. Gambling charges can range from ordinance violations to Class B misdemeanors and Class I felonies. You need experienced legal representation when you are charged with possession of a gambling device. Grieve Law’s team of award-wining attorneys can help you find what defenses you have. You may be able to fight or reduce your charges.

If you have been charged with possession of a gambling device, contact Milwaukee’s defense law firm for a consultation.
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