Wyoming Legislature to Take Up Gambling Expansion
The Wyoming Legislature is set to consider expansion of gambling on the territory of the state in the 2020 budget session, it became known this past Thursday.
Local news outlet the Star-Tribune reported that the Joint Committee on Travel, Recreation, and Cultural Resources decided to advance a bill calling for expansion of the duties of the Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission, which is currently responsible for regulating the state’s horse racing industry, to include gambling.
Under the draft legislation discussed by the committee, all proceeds from gaming will go to host communities and municipalities. The revamped Pari-Mutuel Commission will oversee the regulation and enforcement of legal gaming.
However, while the bill provides for the legalization of gambling across the state, it would be up to counties and their voters to decide whether they want legal gambling to be conducted within their counties’ borders.
The piece discussed by the committee this past Thursday was an amended version of a previously introduced measure. However, that previous legislation faced staunch opposition from some of the involved parties.
Commenting on the updated bill, Sen. Ogden Driskill, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Travel, Recreation, and Cultural Resources, said that the piece was crafted after they had invited a diverse group of interested parties, including gaming industry executives and law enforcement officers, to iron out together all issues relating to the Legislature’s push to legalize gambling.
Sen. Driskill further elaborated that gambling has been growing too fast to control and that his committee realizes that “whether you’re for or against gaming, the only way to be able to control it is through a gaming commission.”
Northern Arapaho Tribe Fears Gambling Expansion Impact
While Wyoming has a limited number of commercial and state-run gambling options, the state is home to several tribal casinos. One of the tribes – the Northern Arapaho Tribe – has been staunchly opposed to the proposed expansion of gambling and has even hired lobbyists to help them in their effort to prevent any expansion legislations from being passed by the Legislature.
During the Thursday meeting, Samuel Dresser, a member of the tribe’s Business Council, said that if the bill currently discussed in the Legislature passes, it would hurt them. Mr. Dresser was the only member of the tribe that attended the meeting.
According to Jim Conrad, former CEO of the Northern Arapaho Tribe’s casino business, expanded gambling in the state would kill its tribal casinos. Aside from his tribe, the Eastern Shoshone Tribe is the other tribe to be conducting casino gaming activities in the state.
Mr. Conrad went on that legal gaming operations would steal customers from the two tribe’s casinos, especially if they serve alcohol and have more convenient locations.
According to previous estimates by Mr. Conrad and a former lobbyist hired by his tribe, the Northern Arapaho’s casinos would lose around $14 million in annual revenue, if the state expands gambling.
The Eastern Shoshone’s flagship gambling property, Shoshone Rose Casino and Hotel in Lander, already faces serious financial issues. The casino had to lay off 20 employees this past June and reduced services and introduced shorter hours of operation.
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