After catching a second wind earlier this month, a Wyoming sports betting bill pushed ahead Tuesday.
This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee held a relatively uncontentious hearing on the bill, aside from an unexpected fire drill. The bill moves to the Senate floor, where proponents feel it has a good chance of passage.
Easy reading of Wyoming sports betting bill
Bill sponsor Rep. Tom Walters guided the committee through the bill. His message was that the legislation is largely meant for consumer protection.
“These activities are going on, hosted through illegal offshore accounts,” Walters said. “There’s no consumer protections, you could place a wager and win, if the bookie can’t pay, you’re out.”
Rep. Landon Brown, a co-sponsor who helped push the reconsideration vote in the House, also spoke in support of the bill. He cited the consumer protection aspect, but also Colorado‘s siphoning of Wyoming tax dollars through legal sports betting.
Wyoming sports betting details
The bill legalizes online sports wagering in the state. At least five sportsbook operators would be allowed into the Wyoming market, with the qualification of being in at least three other states.
Walters, who also introduced sports betting legislation last year, said the online competitive market will prohibit retail locations. He also outlined why multiple operators are better for a market than a single operator, like a state lottery.
“Really, in a regulated market, there’s two ways: a sole source for the state and the other is a competitive market,” Walters said. “This bill structures to convert folks to a regulated market, you can do so more in a competitive market structure.”
Operators will pay $100,000 for a five-year permit with a $50,000 renewal fee.
What’s in it for Wyoming?
The Wyoming Gaming Commission estimates the state’s sports betting market could reach more than $449 million annually.
A proposed 10% tax rate would support the state’s general fund.
“It’s not going to solve all the issues that we’re seeing in the mineral industry, that’s for sure,” co-sponsor Sen. Jeff Wasserburger told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle in February about potential gaming revenues. “But it’s going to help a little bit.”
Jim Willox, president of the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, didn’t take a position but asked for an amendment. Willox wants some money directed to local governments.
Delayed start if enacted
Wyoming Gaming Commission Director Charles Moore did submit a letter of concern to the committee.
Moore suggested striking the July 1, 2021 start date for sports betting in the state.
“We’re very sensitive to this and we understand we’ll need to prioritize these rules,” Moore said. “But when considering we’re not in control of the whole process, it makes it very difficult to see a commitment to a completion of that date.”
The committee was sensitive to Moore’s concerns and amended the date to September 1.
Opearator’s view on Wyoming sports betting
DraftKings director of legal and governmental affairs Chris Cipolla spoke in support of the bill. Along with echoing the consumer protection element, Cipolla emphasized the popularity of online wagering.
- 85% of pre-pandemic wagers in New Jersey were online
- “Nearly all” of Colorado‘s bets since its May 2020 launch are online
- 88% of Pennsylvania‘s bets in every month of 2020 were online
He also was complimentary of the suggested tax rate, explaining it is modeled on Colorado.
“It’s a reasonable tax rate that recognizes a low-margin and highly volatile industry,” Cipolla said.
Keeping up with the Joneses
Wyoming is trying to keep pace with some of its neighbors when it comes to sports betting.
Montana is also a legal market, with sports betting operated by Intralot through the Montana Lottery.