Wyoming Resuscitates Effort to Regulate Gaming Just Weeks After it was on Life Support

Posted on: July 23, 2019, 09:35h. 

Last updated on: July 23, 2019, 11:56h.

Less than a month after it looked like it was heading to the legislative graveyard, a Wyoming lawmaker is refreshing a proposal to regulate the state’s betting activities and its burgeoning illegal gaming machine business.

Wyoming state Sen. Ogden Driskill is again attempting to regulate gaming in the state. (Image: YouTube)

On Monday, state Sen. Ogden Driskill (R-Devil’s Tower) filed a motion that, if approved, would increase the purview of the state’s Pari-Mutuel Commission to include other forms of legal gambling in Wyoming. That could pave the way policymakers there to bring some oversight to a growing illegal gaming machine business that politicians fear will likely worsen if it goes unchecked.

Wyoming has four casinos. The Wind River Hotel and Casino, Little Wind Casino, the 789 Casino, and the Shoshone Rose Casino and Hotel are tribal gaming venues and are the state’s largest legitimate gaming establishments. However, the state also has 400 unregulated gambling devices, a number that is expected to grow exponentially if the government does not step in.

Driskill’s latest proposal looks to shore up some of the local control provisions that attempt to govern various forms of wagering in Wyoming.

Local control only works when you have an overarching framework to work within,” he said in an interview with The Casper Star-Tribune. “When you look at our county commission setup, and our citizen-run towns, they have local control but under the auspices of laws created by the state, with some sideboards. If we’re going to do local control with gambling, there has to be a regulation that’s over the top.”

In June, the legislature’s Joint Committee on Travel, Recreation, and Cultural Resources scrapped support for a dedicated gaming commission that would oversee betting activities outside the jurisdiction of the lottery and the Pari-Mutuel Commission.

Banking On Bingo

The idea to expand the regulatory duties of the state’s Pari-Mutuel Commission is attached to a previously floated bill designed to increase supervision of Wyoming’s bingo and gaming machine businesses.

Previous efforts at bolstering gaming regulation in the Cowboy State have been met with industry resistance and it looks like that will be the case again. Lobbyists for gaming businesses there are concerned that if the Pari-Mutuel Commission becomes the regulatory body to which all gambling enterprises must answer, that is akin to being overseen by a competitor, reports the Star-Tribune.

Additionally, the commission that tends to Wyoming’s horse racing activities only has six full-time workers and may not be equipped to handle additional oversight responsibilities.

Big Government Concerns

Wyoming already has gaming laws in place, but many of those rules are seen as convoluted, leading to slack enforcement at the local level.

Driskill told the Star-Tribune the issue isn’t whether betting is allowed in Wyoming. Rather, his proposal is aimed at defining what the state does and does not permit when it comes to wagering.

Some members of the Joint Committee on Travel, Recreation, and Cultural Resources, including other Republicans, are concerned that forming a gaming commission would amount to a legislative boondoggle that creates an ineffective, big government bureaucracy.

Any new gaming laws in Wyoming would not pertain to the state’s tribal casinos because those entities are regulated at the federal level.