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Wyoming Gambling Laws and Information


Wyoming is one of the most scarcely populated states, and as such, it’s not too surprising to find only a limited amount of gaming within its borders. For a very long time, state officials did everything they could to keep most forms of gambling from taking hold here, though the last two decades have seen an increase in what’s allowed, especially on Indian reservations.

That said, this is still far from a pro-gambling state, and that means that the prospects for regulated online casinos will be grim for some time to come. Furthermore, with such a small population, the state is unlikely to be pressured into joining into any Internet poker or gaming networks, making it unlikely that we’ll see such sites running here anytime soon.

Legal Action Leads to Native American Resorts

As in many states, the first form of gaming to gain acceptance in Wyoming was parimutuel wagering, where bettors could bet on horse and dog races in the state. Such bets were made legal in 1967, and racing has continued in most years since then. Recently, the industry (as in many other parts of the country) has been in decline, with only a few days of racing taking place each year at Wyoming Downs and other tracks in the state. However, there are simulcasts of races from other jurisdictions, which have helped keep the tracks alive as businesses.

For a very long time, this was still one of the few states that did not have any lottery sales within its borders. However, in 2013, Governor Matt Mead signed a bill into law that authorized the creation of a lottery, one that is now known as WyoLotto.

However, even though the lottery is permitted, it is extremely limited when compared to the offerings seen in many other states. There are no instant-win scratch off tickets, and video lottery terminals are not allowed, either. In fact, the lottery bill includes a sunset provision: after six years, the bill will expire, and the state legislature will have to reauthorize it in order to continue operations. Despite these restrictions, popular multistate games like Powerball and Mega Millions are offered here.

Then there is the question of casino gambling. At the moment, there are no commercial casinos in the state, and few people have even brought up the idea of potentially allowing developers such an opportunity. However, there was one area in which the state could only put up resistance for so long: the efforts of Native American tribes.

Following the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, at least two Wyoming tribes joined countless others across the country in seeking some form of gambling on their lands. There was a problem, though: lawmakers refused to talk about compacts at all, which caught the ire of National Indian Gaming Commission.

After a protracted struggle, the Northern Arapaho Tribe eventually decided to take the case to court, eventually resulting in a ruling that allowed them to offer full, Class III gaming facilities on their lands. That was enough to get Wyoming to end its refusal to come to the bargaining table, and compacts were signed both with the Arapaho and the Eastern Shoshone Tribe in 2006.

Today, there are three casinos operating in the state. Two of these are run by the Arapaho County (Wind River and Little Wind), with the Shoshone Rose being the third.

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No Reason to Expect Online Regulation

Given Wyoming’s reluctance to approve most forms of land-based gaming, it would be very surprising to find that lawmakers here had made major strides towards iGaming. Sure enough, Internet gambling sites haven’t been a priority here, and few people expect to see the state seriously take up the issue anytime in the foreseeable future.

But that doesn’t mean that residents of the state can’t enjoy placing bets over the Internet. Many reputable online casino operators allow players from the Cowboy State to sign up and play real money slots, blackjack, poker and other games. For these offshore sites, Wyoming (like much of the United States) is a grey market – and since players won’t face any legal repercussions simply for playing at these websites, many do so each and every day.

Lottery, Racing Industry Are Hot Topics

Looking forward in Wyoming, there is still plenty to be settled when it comes to the future of its gaming industry. As we noted before, the lottery here could potentially disappear as early as 2019, though that seems like an unlikely outcome. But when the issue comes up, expect a lot of debate as to what is allowed: right now, Wyoming is one of just two lottery states that does not allow scratch off cards to be sold (the other being North Dakota), and since those account for about half of all sales nationwide, there could be a push to legalize them the next time around.

More immediate are concerns about the horse-racing industry. As in some other states, tracks have been pushing for historical racing – a form of betting in which gamblers take their chances on predicting the outcomes of previous races, without knowledge of the horse names, the dates of the races, or the tracks where they took place.

However, those machines were shut down in 2015, due to concerns from state officials that they were too similar to slot machines. It’s an easy complaint to understand: many of these games are designed to almost perfectly mimic slots, with players getting their results in the form of a slots interface in which a winning combination means they picked the right winner.

While that’s different from a true slot (the results are still related to the horses picked, similar to how video lottery terminals may have games with predetermined results that are represented by a simulated slots spin), they are clearly designed to feed on the appetite for Vegas-style gambling – and it shows in the fact that these games brought in well over $110 million in revenues for 2014, compared to just over $7 million for betting on live and simulcast racing combined.

After about two months, the historic racing machines returned to operation in late November 2015. The state attorney general’s office had determined that while bonus rounds and other special features were illegal, the basic concept was not, and that individual machines could now be verified as compliant. Expect this issue to get more attention in the years to come.

Other issues in the state include the potential creation of a gambling commission to oversee all such activities in the state, but this move was rejected in late 2015. Given the relatively low-key nature of the state’s gaming industry, it seems that many lawmakers feel that the current oversight for the lottery and parimutuel wagering is plenty.

None of this suggests that there is any appetite for Internet casinos, and there is no evidence out of the state legislature or other government officials that there might be interest in even bringing the idea up in coming sessions. Our best guess is that it will be a very long time before you can place bets over the Internet here – most other states will likely have already set up regulatory systems before Wyoming even begins to consider the idea.

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