As the market continues to grow, it’s clear Colorado loves sports betting.
You know who else loves Colorado online sports betting?
Particularly residents of Cheyenne and Laramie. Cities that are close to the Colorado-Wyoming border.
Close enough to, say, hop in their car, make the short drive south on Interstate 25 or Highway 287, cross the border, pull over, and make a few bets.
While that’s not the main factor in why Wyoming State Rep. Tom Walters co-sponsored HB 133 to legalize sports betting in the Cowboy State, it shows the demand.
Walters represents House District 38, which is home to Casper in Natrona County.
The Wyoming sports betting bill is for online only. The legislation actually states that no physical sportsbooks will be allowed. If approved, Wyoming would join Tennessee as the only states to conduct sports betting exclusively online.
And similar to Colorado, it allows bettors to sign up from the comfort of their couch.
If Walters’ sports betting bill is approved, the need for Wyoming residents to make that drive south to place a few wagers is removed. It also ensures that money stays in-state.
“It’s funny you should say that,” he told PlayColorado on Thursday. “I live in the central part of the state, so I don’t hear about it near as much. Since I’ve gotten to Cheyenne the last couple of weeks, a number of folks that live here in Cheyenne have come to me and said ‘my husband does this or I do this’ and so many times they say they run down I-25 to the border, pull over, place their bet, and run home. So I think it’s happening at a fairly high occurrence, which is unique to witness.”
Wyoming looks to fight offshore betting
The country knew change would come when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018. That was the 1992 law that barred state-authorized sports gambling.
But the rate at which states are debating or moving to legalized sports betting is following a breakneck pace.
Wyoming is one of the most recent.
That’s why Walters proposed and is the main sponsor of the sports betting bill.
“Rather than having it continue in the illegal market here in Wyoming, I thought it was time to bring it up and put it in a regulated market in the state of Wyoming,” he said. “It benefits all of our citizens to be in a regulated market because it’s safe and secure. And then it also generates a small amount of revenue for the state of Wyoming. But mainly just the safety and security that a regulated market provides to the people of Wyoming for doing something that is legal in the United States.”
Rare re-vote sends sports betting bill to Senate
Now that the Wyoming House has approved the online-only sports betting bill with a 32-28 vote on Wednesday, it’s one step closer. It now advances to the Wyoming Senate.
What’s fascinating about the vote in the House is it initially failed on Tuesday with a 33-28 vote.
“There were some members who really liked the bill but were voting against it because they were supporting other members of the body and some of their issues,” Walters said. “So I was able to visit with them and convince them that it really is good for Wyoming. And they recognized that it was good for Wyoming, had a change of heart and decided they’d go ahead and support it. So once I had their support and was able to confirm the support of the other folks that had already been supportive, we reconsidered it and off it went.”
Added revenue could benefit the state
Waters did say it’s too far out to know where the money would go. For example, in Colorado, 10% of the sports betting taxes collected goes to water conservation.
He did say the legislation would funnel all sports betting tax revenue to the state’s general fund.
Waters added it’s also too early to know what the revenue projections would look like, and he doesn’t want to create unrealistic expectations by speculating.
However, as the Action Network points out, the Wyoming Gaming Commission projected Wyoming residents wager more than $450 million illegally each year.
When you consider the revenue problems caused by COVID-19 and the state’s reliance on coal and oil production, this added revenue stream could provide some needed assistance.
“It certainly doesn’t hurt to add some to the state coffers,” Walters said. “And it’s better to have this money going to the state coffers than to offshores that are currently offering these opportunities. As I said, it benefits the state, citizens their dollars being returned to the state as opposed to somewhere offshore.”
Wyoming Gaming Commission to oversee sports betting
As you probably gathered, 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.
“That’s who will promulgate rules to effectuate the law if it’s passed,” Walters added.
As for what Wyoming sports fans could wager on, there are no prohibitions on esports or college sports betting. So unlike Illinois or Virginia, fans could wager on the University of Wyoming if they wanted.
The Wyoming sports betting bill requires the commission to issue at least five licenses if enough eligible applicants apply.
The bill 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, as the Action Network states, 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 Colorado.
Sports betting age at 18?
The other fascinating aspect of the Wyoming sports betting bill is it sets the age at 18.
The typical age for gaming and sports betting is 21.
“I started with 18 and no one offered an amendment to 21,” Waters said.” I wouldn’t have fought had they moved it to 21. I’d point out that our lottery and our historical horse racing in Wyoming is both at 18. And our skill-based amusement games in Wyoming are based at 21. So we are kind of a split issue there, you might say.”
If the Wyoming Senate were to come back with an amendment to make it age 21, Walters wouldn’t fight it.
Now that the bill is out of the House, he said it will probably take a week to 10 days before it’s considered by the Senate. He also said there is high likelihood that it will pass.
“I have high hopes that I can get it across the finish line by making it through the Senate and down to the governor’s office for a signature,” Walters said. “One-third of the hurdle has been completed at least.”