‘Powder River, Let ’Er Bet:’ Wyoming Set To Join Sports Betting Frenzy

Written By Ian St. Clair on 04/07/2021 - Last Updated on September 1, 2021

To say there’s excitement over Wyoming legalizing sports betting is the understatement of the year.

That’s like saying sports fans in the Cowboy State treasure Josh Allen.

But for Alan Stuber, the fact he’ll soon be able to bet on his beloved University of Wyoming football team sends him back to when he was a freshman at Campbell County High in Gillette. The Cowboys were playing host to bitter (and hated) rival Utah in 2004 at War Memorial Stadium.

As Stuber, a Wyoming sports fan who lives in Gillette, told PlayColorado:

“Alex Smith was the QB at the time and it was one of the coldest games I have ever been to. But even as a kid, I remember Wyoming never making it that close of a game, but fans were cheering until the very end because they were able to cover the spread. That is what I see as a Wyoming fan. With great reporting with companies like 7220sports, I feel like we, Wyoming fans, know the team better, therefore being able to make bets on Wyoming when there is such a large spread from the books in Vegas.”

Wyoming legalizes sports betting

Brandt Tobler is still in shock.

The sports betting enthusiast, author, actor and comedian who lives in Denver but is from Cheyenne didn’t see his home state legalizing sports betting in 2021.

But that’s what happened earlier this week when Gov. Mark Gordon signed HB Bill 133.

Wyoming is the second state to legalize sports betting in 2021, following its neighbor to the east, South Dakota. Gov. Kristi Noem recently signed the voter-approved Deadwood sports betting bill into law.

As for Wyoming, it’ll become the 21st state to offer sports betting when it officially launches, which could happen as soon as Sept. 1 or mid-fall, according to Wyoming State Rep. Tom Walters. Walters represents House District 38, home to Casper in Natrona County.

Sports betting in Wyoming will be overseen by the Gaming Commission. It was created a year ago, in part because of Waters. It was a split from the Pari-Mutuel Commission that oversees horse racing in the state.

“Rule making started (Monday),” Walters said. “Rules must be in place by the first of September. And hopefully by mid-Fall we’ll be accepting wagers in the state of Wyoming. I think that’s an aggressive timeline, but I think a doable timeline for sure.”

Wyoming receptive to gambling

Now that Wyoming is about to enter a new frontier, Tobler thinks sports betting will explode in the state.

“Everybody loves to gamble in Wyoming. Drink and gamble,” he said, laughing. “It’s weird because I’ve gone all over the country and people don’t know about dice games at bars or squares or stuff like that. You can’t go to a bar in Cheyenne without three or four squares games. Or betting lines on Monday Night Football. So I just think the excitement will be so much more fun because like I always say, it’s so much more fun to win money than earn money.

“I think the Wyoming people will be super excited and it’ll be different for all of the betting sites because they’ll be shocked at the handle in Wyoming. I was a bookie for a little bit and the Wyoming people are very loyal. It didn’t matter what I made the line, they were always going to bet their Cowboys. I just think it’s going to be a lot of fun and give people the chance to win a little money when their team wins, which always makes the day even better.”

Added Cody Tucker, the founder, editor, and writer at 7220sports:

“To be honest, until I started researching online gaming in Wyoming myself, I didn’t really know. It became apparent quickly that many sports fans around the state are interested and go as far as to drive into Colorado to place bets the way we all used to go buy lottery tickets. The people I have talked to are really excited to place bets on the Pokes, especially. Typically that only happens when Wyoming is playing in Las Vegas and you’re there to go to a sportsbook in person.”

Mobile-only registration

Perhaps the main reason for the budding excitement is the fact bettors will be able sign up from the comfort of their home. That’s similar to Colorado in that regard. But unlike Colorado, Wyoming is a complete mobile sports betting state. The Cowboy State joins Tennessee as the only mobile-only sports betting states in the U.S.

The other benefit: those bettors Tobler and Tucker mentioned who live close to the Colorado border will no longer have to make that short drive into Colorado, pull over, make their wagers and then head home.

“Tremendous excitement. Tremendous enthusiasm,” Walters said. “As it was working its way through the process, sitting here in Cheyenne the number of people who have approached me and said, ‘This’ll be great. I won’t have to drive down to the Colorado border, place my wager and then come back home 20 minutes later.’ They’ll be able to do it right from home. And it still keeps the state from having a physical sportsbook on every corner, as that is specifically prohibited.

“It is just online and people can do it privately from the confines of their home, their office and not intrude on others that don’t want to participate. So I think it’s a good balance and just a tremendous response from people. They’re excited to have it. They’ve been asking for it, ever since 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court changed its decision on that. So now it’s a reality.”

Ease of signup adds some fear

It’s that ease of signup that also has Tobler scared. He knows the effects of gambling and what can happen when it gets out of control.

Illinois just ended its mobile registration for sportsbooks, joining Nevada. That means people have to go to a casino to signup for an app they want to use.

“It’s crazy how easy it is,” he said. “I made this stupid joke because I was in Vegas last week doing shows, and I was like, ‘This stinks that I’m in Vegas and I can’t even gamble.’ That was my dumb joke but I have all of my money in online accounts and they don’t work. For instance, DraftKings and Superbook, they don’t work in Vegas. So it was weird. It became an inconvenience to gamble in Vegas, which I never thought because as a kid I would do all of my research and send my dad, who lived in Vegas, $20 and have him bet four $5, 17-parlays every week for me.

“So it’s gotten a lot more convenient than going to the Post Office and mailing my dad money that he wasn’t even betting he was just keeping knowing I would never hit a 17-parlay. But honestly, the convenience of it is what scares me. As much as I love it.”

Analogy to other addictions

Tober then used an interesting analogy to make his point:

“I didn’t start gambling online because I just know how bad it can be. This is what scares me. I think it’s the worst addiction because, let’s say you’re at a bar and it’s 9 in the morning. And, let’s say you’re doing cocaine or something outside. People would be like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ Or even smoking weed. People would be like, ‘That’s aggressive.’ Or if you’re drinking at 9 in the morning, sometimes people will be like, ‘Whoa, maybe take it easy, buddy.’ But if you bet a 9 o’clock Big 10 football game or something, people are like, ‘Ah, this is fun. I want to be a part of it.’ Even liquor stores close at 2 in the morning. I got friends who are betting table tennis at 4 in the morning in Japan.

“To me it can be scary, and the access is almost too good. Luckily, I’ve learned my lessons from chasing my money and losing all of my money before, that I have a little bit of discipline. But I’ve learned those lessons the hard way. And a lot of people in my life lost even more than me. Not to be a downer, but I think it’s a little scary.”

Age limit set at 18 in Wyoming

What may add some concern and raise a few eyebrows is the sports betting age in Wyoming is 18. Walters put that in the initial bill and it remained through the signing.

While the typical age limit for sports betting in the U.S. is 21, Wyoming also has 18 as the limit for historical horse racing and the lottery.

That consistency is all that Keith Whyte looks for in situations like this. He’s the executive director for the National Council on Problem Gambling.

“So whatever your state sets or whatever their infinite wisdom is, whether it’s 21 or 18, just make all forms of gambling the same,” he said. “Just like we do with alcohol. So you don’t get these weird distinctions, because obviously that implies ‘Well, is one form riskier or is this form safer?’ It’s hard. It makes it hard from an enforcement aspect. It makes it hard from a responsible gambling aspect. Just be consistent.”

Sports betting could bring economic relief

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has had a massive impact on states’ economies across the country. When you add in Wyoming’s reliance on coal and oil production, this added revenue stream could provide some needed assistance.

We still don’t know what that sports betting revenue will go to in Wyoming, but the new law will funnel all sports betting tax revenue to the state’s general fund.

Operators in Wyoming

The Wyoming sports betting law requires the commission to issue at least five licenses if enough eligible applicants apply.

The law also also requires the commission to issue permits to eligible applicants operating in at least five other jurisdictions.

For the sportsbooks that apply in Wyoming, they would pay a $100,000 initial fee with a $50,000 renewal every five years and be taxed at 10% of gross gaming revenue. That operator-friendly percentage is identical to what you see with Colorado sports betting.

“After talking with a state legislator (Tuesday), he thinks the state could bring in up to $250 million in the first year,” Tucker said. “In the initial bill, it was closer to $450 million, but he is being more realistic. Let’s face it, Wyoming needs all the revenue it can get right now with coal and oil production on the downhill slide. Those industries have been the main catalyst behind the building of new schools, less taxes and the University of Wyoming, among many other things, for a long, long time.

“I certainly don’t see it hurting anything. And if people are driving to Colorado or the surrounding states to place bets, it’s kind of like the marijuana thing, right? People are doing it anyway, let’s make money off it. I truly hope it works because future funding in this state from minerals and gas appears to be in serious jeopardy. Obviously this won’t be a quick fix, but it could be a nice start.”

UW sports will get major action

As for what Wyoming sports fans could wager on, look for Allen and the Buffalo Bills to get a lot of action. And, of course, UW athletics. One thing to keep in mind: Similar to Colorado, there are no prohibitions on esports or college sports betting. So unlike Illinois or Virginia, fans could wager on the Cowboys or Cowgirls if they so choose.

“Growing up there, it’s always been Broncos Country,” Tobler said. “I mean, probably 95%. But I’ve definitely seen a little change, especially with the people who have been frustrated with the Broncos the last couple of years. I would say it’s almost 80-20 now, but it’s headed in that direction. So I think it’ll definitely be a lot of, obviously, any Wyoming games. I think the Bills will get a lot of action. The Colorado teams will get a lot of action. And people will bet a lot against CSU and BYU.”

Tucker agrees with Tobler.

“Definitely the Cowboys,” Tucker said. “Fans I have spoken with are really excited about that. If this becomes legal by Sept. 1 — like it’s supposed to — there will be plenty of wagers on the Wyoming-Montana State game three days later. As far as the Bills, that’s really a no-brainer. They have three former UW stars on their roster now with Jacob Hollister and Tanner Gentry joining Josh Allen. I think the NFL in general will draw plenty of bets, but I’ll place a bet right now — Bills it is.”

‘Powder River, Let ‘Er Bet’

While most may not have had Wyoming legalizing sports betting in 2021 as a remote possibility, the initial shock is giving way to excitement.

“Powder River, Let ’Er Bet.”

“What I love about it is it can make any game fun,” Tobler said. “It’ll just make everything better. For me, as far as gambling, some of the funnest days of my life involved winning money. So to be in Laramie with all of my friends, and bet the Cowboys and over or something, and they score that late touchdown to hit. Living in Denver, I got to drive up, I’ll definitely have some beers and be responsible and get a hotel, but there’s nothing better than saying the sportsbook paid for my trip. So I can’t wait. And hopefully everybody will play responsibly.”

Added Stuber:

“I just think it’s a step in the right direction for the state to possibly generate revenue in new ways. In addition, as a fan, it’s pure entertainment. When money is involved, it’s even more entertaining. Personally, being a fan of professional sports teams that aren’t close to Wyoming, I don’t always get to watch them on television. Sports betting makes it possible to be more interested in other teams; be more of a fan of the sport itself, not just certain teams. All of this is now possible without leaving the comfort of my own home.”

Photo by AP / Rick Scuteri
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Ian St. Clair

Ian is an award-winning sports journalist and a University of Northern Colorado graduate. He’s a Colorado native and has over a decade of experience covering college and professional athletics. He broke into the gambling industry right as Colorado launched legal sports betting in 2020. Ian now manages the sites for some of the biggest gambling markets in North America and is an analyst for PlayColorado.

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