Exactly two weeks after a sports betting regulation bill emerged in Wyoming, the state’s House of Representatives voted against the legislation.
State representative Tom Walters (R-38) and state senator Ogden Driskill (R-1) introduced their co-sponsored House Bill 225 on February 14.
Under the proposal, the Wyoming Department of Revenue would regulate online / mobile sportsbooks made available statewide to bettors aged 18 and over.
Five days later, the House Appropriations Committee moved the bill forward to a floor vote by the full House. Walters cast the decisive vote in a narrow 4-3 tally, but that narrow margin of victory foretold HB-225’s eventual fate in the House.
Wyoming Sports Betting Bill Falls Three Votes Short of House Passage
On February 28, members of the House voted 32 to 27 against HB-225, thereby ending any chance of the Cowboy State legalizing sports betting this year. Wyoming’s current legislative session ends on March 6, so local lawmakers will have to wait until January of 2021, at the earliest, to take up the issue once again.
After his bill was killed off, Walters told Legal Sports Report that several of his more conservative colleagues simply couldn’t abide legalizing any form of gambling:
“They felt that by providing a regulatory opportunity it was legalizing it.
I somewhat disagree in saying it’s not illegal, but it operates in an underground world because we don’t have a regulatory framework in place.
With no regulatory framework, it will continue to not be monitored.”
As it stands, the only legal way for Wyoming’s residents to wager involve dog and horse racing. The state is also home to hundreds of “grey market” video gaming terminals, which essentially serve as unregulated slot machines operated in bars and social clubs.
Asked about his reaction to the tight vote, Walters told Legal Sports Report that – contrary to popular opinion from conservative pundits – the close margin of defeat proved Wyoming does indeed have an appetite for the industry:
“I knew it was tight but felt like I had enough support that it was worth it, and also I wanted to start the conversation.
There were some people who were maybes, and ultimately five of those folks decided to vote no.”
Sponsor Expects Progress on Sports Betting Next Year
Although the bill was introduced by a fellow Republican in Walters, most members of the GOP-dominated House opted to side against their party colleague.
Republican lawmakers accounted for 28 of the 32 votes against HB-225, with four Democrats in tow to provide the decisive margin.
As for the 27 votes in favor, 21 were cast by Republicans while five Democrats and the House’s lone Independent joined in.
In his interview with Legal Sports Report, Walters predicted that many of his colleagues would have a change of heart over the next year:
“I think legislators will go home and their constituents will ask what happened with sports betting.
I think a lot of them don’t realize how much sports betting is taking place.
When they get back and talk to their neighbors, they’ll be shocked by how much interest there is in this, and then next year they might be excited to put regulation in place.”
For the time being, Wyomingites who wish to wager legally on sports will have to cross state lines to utilize Colorado’s newly regulated industry. Lawmakers in the Centennial State voted to put both brick and mortar and online / mobile sports betting on last November’s ballot, and a majority of the electorate approved the measure.
Regulators there are currently approving licensed operators and legal sports betting in Colorado is scheduled to launch later this year.