- How did Wymoing sports betting initially fail?
- Wyoming Would Only Offer Online Sportsbooks
- What's next for Wyoming betting?
In one day, five legislators changed their minds on a Wyoming sports betting bill, bringing it back from the dead. Through a procedural move known as reconsideration, Wyoming House Bill 133 now moves to the state Senate.
Now, there is suddenly life for sports betting in the Cowboy State in 2021. Despite not having any professional teams and few residents, Wyoming could reap millions from sportsbook licensing fees.
2021 Wyoming Sports Betting First Failed
Representative Tom Walters (R-Casper) introduced HB133 on February 24, 2021. He claimed that his constituents desired regulated Wyoming sports betting. According to him, “This is something they want to see.”
At first, his colleagues in the House disagreed. The bill advanced out of the Appropriations Committee by a 6-1 vote. However, it soon ran into opposition.
In deeply conservative Wyoming, legislators debated whether gambling is vice or a sin. The bill explicitly includes a minimum age for betting of 18 years old. Even so, Rep. Sue Wilson (R-Laramie County) equated regulated gaming to “gambling for tots, marijuana for tots.” It is unclear why she connected sports betting with pot on the House floor.
Due to opponents questioning the morality of gambling in general, the House first voted HB133 down, 32-28. However, through a rarely successful legislative maneuver, HB133 passed the next day.
The final tally on HB133 was also 32-28. Five representatives switched their votes from ‘no’ to yes’ overnight. One ‘yes’ vote defected to the ‘no’ camp. There were no changes to the legislative text driving the changes of heart.
Wyoming Would Only Offer Online Sportsbooks
As a vast, largely rural location, Wyoming would limit wagering to online and mobile operators. Currently, Tennessee is the only state using a similar model. With this system, Wyoming sports betting would be both controlled, and available to every eligible resident.
Wyoming residents are currently able to visit one of four tribal casinos within the state. There are also historical horse racing machines offered at a few off-track betting locations. The state has a robust lottery and is a part of the Powerball and MegaMillions coalition. But, these options are limited compared to neighboring states like Colorado, Montana, and even South Dakota.
Regulated sports wagering would be a significant expansion to Wyoming’s gaming scene. HB133 places the Wyoming Gaming Commission in charge of implementing rules, licensing operators, and collecting taxes and fees.
Licensing Would Raise Significant Revenue
There is no cap in HB133 on how many licenses the Gaming Commission could sell. Each potential operator would need to pay a non-refundable $2,500 application fee. Approved companies would pay $100,000 each for an initial operator’s license. Then, renewal permits would cost $50,000.
Wyoming has an extremely small population, so it is unclear how many operators would try to establish operations. Neighboring Montana, with a similar demographic profile, has had regulated sports gambling since 2020. However, the state monopolizes online wagering through a single app run by the lottery.
Therefore, it is hard to judge what companies would attempt to enter a regulated betting market. Even though it has a low population, operators could benefit from the hordes of tourists that arrive every summer.
What’s Next For Sports Betting in Wyoming?
Now that HB133 has passed the Wyoming House, the bill heads to the Senate. The 2021 legislative session in Wyoming wraps up on April 2. So Senators will need to work quickly. There are thirty state Senators, and 28 of them are Republicans. Sports betting will not be a partisan issue so much as a question of priority.
HB133 contains a schedule for licensing fees and a 10% tax rate on operators’ revenues. This means roughly estimating the amount of new funding created for the state should not be complicated. If the bill passes the Senate and is signed, it will be implemented before July 1, 2021.