The seedy underbelly of illegal gambling doesn’t usually feature floating bath toys. Nor are the winnings often going to help local police and firefighter groups. But, in Wisconsin, events like the Ducktona-500 or Ken-Ducky Derby have caught the attention of state’s Department of Justice.
“The little old ladies who run them never thought they were doing something to break the law,” said Republican state representative André Jacque tells National Review.
“Any event in which an individual purchases a numbered duck, which is then dropped into a body of water and floated to a finish line, and the owner of the ‘winning duck’ then receives a prize, constitutes a lottery, as defined by Wisconsin Statutes 945.01(5),” the department wrote in a letter, threatening crimes ranging from a misdemeanor to a Class A felony. Jacque later learned the Mishicot crackdown was not an isolated incident: organizers of duck-racing events in other places such as La Crosse and Pepin had also received cease-and-desist letters from state authorities. As a result, like in Pepin, non-profit organizations in these towns saw diminished participation and lost funds.
Jacque sent a letter to the Justice Department to encourage officials to stop pursuing the obviously good-natured events, but they said they would not reverse course. Consequently, Jacque introduced a bill that would legalize races, as has been done in neighboring Michigan and Minnesota. The vote is set for later today, and he expects the initiative to pass easily in the assembly as well as the senate.
But a law to allow people to race rubber ducks for charitable causes without fear of retribution shouldn’t be necessary. “I have to wonder why they’re prioritizing this because there are other demands to use their time and resources on,” he said.
— Andrew Johnson is an editorial associate at National Review Online.