Pari-mutuel handle crossed $1.6 Bn in 2023

Wyoming: Legislature initiates first comprehensive statewide gaming study as industry expands

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The Wyoming Legislature has responded to the rapid expansion of the state's gambling industry by initiating a comprehensive review of the gaming landscape. The Wyoming Gaming Commission (WGC) will undertake a statewide gaming study over the coming months, in collaboration with the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee.

This initiative, outlined in a footnote in the 2024 Session Laws, Chapter 118, marks the first in-depth examination of Wyoming's evolving gambling sector, Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported.

The decision to conduct this study comes on the heels of substantial growth within the industry, propelled by legislative authorizations and changing consumer preferences.

Formerly known as the Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission, the regulatory body's transformation into the Wyoming Gaming Commission in 2020 coincided with the expansion of permissible forms of gambling, including skill-based amusement and charitable games.

The subsequent legalization of online sports wagering in 2021 further accelerated the industry's trajectory, resulting in significant contributions to the state's revenue from wagering activity.

Recognizing the need for informed decision-making and effective regulation in light of these developments, state lawmakers have prioritized a thorough examination of various facets of the gaming landscape.

The statewide gaming study will delve into critical areas including all pari-mutuel wagering activities, skill-based amusement games, and online sports betting; proliferation of betting locations and activity; the WGC's oversight capacity; criteria for denying applications for a license or permit; and processes and procedures for addressing noncompliance with gaming laws and regulations, the report said.

“Now that the agency has grown so much … we really need to get a comprehensive study. Part of that study helps us develop a strategic plan moving forward to ensure the citizens of Wyoming are protected,” WGC Deputy Director Nick Larramendy was quoted as saying in the report.

During a recent meeting in Laramie, members of the Joint Appropriations Committee reviewed the role of the Gaming Commission and deliberated on the industry's expansion. Committee co-chairman Rep. Bob Nicholas emphasized the educational value of the study for committee members, highlighting its significance in understanding and effectively regulating the burgeoning gaming sector.

One notable aspect of the industry's growth is the expansion of live horse racing events in Wyoming, facilitated in part by the approval of historic horse racing (HHR) machines in 2013. These machines have played a pivotal role in funding live horse racing events, contributing substantial revenue to various entities, including the Wyoming Gaming Commission and the state's Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account (LSRA).

As per LSO associate fiscal analyst Karen Vaughn, the total handle from pari-mutuel events in 2023 surpassed $1.6 billion, with HHR accounting for a staggering 98% of that figure.

Taxation rates on wagering proceeds vary based on the form of gambling, with a portion allocated to cities, towns, counties, and the state. Notably, 1% of total HHR wagers and 0.25% of HHR wagers are directed to the respective county and city/town and the state's rainy-day fund.

Additionally, the Pari-Mutuel Account receives 0.25% of HHR wagers and 1.5% of live horse wagers, with excess funds over $1.5 million allocated to the LSRA. These proceeds also support the Wyoming Breeder Award Program, incentivizing Wyoming-bred horse production through various fee allocations under state statutes.

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