After the Department of Justice warned two towns of illegal gambling after their rubber duck race fundraiser, a Wisconsin legislator has begun circulating a bill to legalize rubber duck racing.
Rep. André Jacque, R-De Pere, said the bill came about after the town of Washington received a warning from DOJ not to go forward with its idea of using a duck race as a fundraising event.
“It’s harmless fun that people can participate in,” Jacque said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate that people are complaining about good people for a charity cause.”
According to current law, rubber duck racing is illegal gambling, where any purchase made by an individual with the intentions of racing and a subsequent prize is seen as a lottery. Lotteries not conducted by the state are considered illegal and penalties range from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Rubber duck races are common throughout the state, Jacque said. In Madison, the parks division held a rubber duck race in June to benefit the Goodman Pool Scholarship Fund, which would allow low-income families and children to swim at Goodman Pool or be on the Goodman Waves swim team, according to a Madison Parks and Recreation Department statement.
Ducks were purchased through the Madison Mallards and cost $2 per duck, and winners won a 20-plus person party at the “Duck Pond,” and were able to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Mallards game.
DOJ also issued a warning in June to the town of Mishicot, which planned to have a duck race for its annual Riverfest.
“While we recognize that a variety of games are often associated with community festivals like yours, the Department of Justice requests that you do not conduct any future duck races in the state of Wisconsin,” the DOJ warning said. “As mentioned, there are numerous other legal fundraising efforts that may be undertaken that would serve your purposes and not violate the statutory prohibitions against illegal gambling.”
All proceeds from the event benefit service organizations throughout Mishicot such as volunteer ambulance service and the volunteer fire department, Virginia Parlato, coordinator of the Mishicot Area Growth and Improvement Committee, said.
Parlato said each organization receiving funds from the race uses money properly.
“Each organization uses any money raised from the races to support local projects, equipment and the like,” Parlato said. “The money stays in the Mishicot area and benefits the local community.”
Jacque said the issues surrounding duck races in Minnesota and Michigan were used as references for his bill, which he added has seen much support so far.
Both Minnesota and Michigan have legalized rubber duck races, Jacque added.
Parlato said she hopes the bill will allow them to continue fundraising for the community.
“The [races] are a fun way to help raise money for our local organizations,” Parlato said.
Jacque said he believes his bill will pass without a problem.
Calls to Laura Whitmore, City of Madison Parks Division spokesperson, were not returned.
Dana Brueck, DOJ spokesperson, had no comment.