Wyoming Online Sports Betting Bill Passes Senate, Clearing Legalization Path

Wyoming Online Sports Betting Bill Passes Senate, Clearing Legalization Path article feature image

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The Wyoming Senate easily passed an amended online sports betting bill Monday, positioning final passage for as early as next month.

The 24-5 Senate vote comes several weeks after the House narrowly passed an earlier version of the bill. The House and Senate must pass identical bills before it can go to Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk, but the Senate changes are largely perfunctory and shouldn’t prevent final passage.

If passed, Wyoming would join Tennessee as the only exclusively-online sports betting markets. Wyoming is the first state to pass a 2021 online sports betting bill out of both legislative chambers.

Commercial retail sportsbooks are not permitted under this bill. Wyoming’s Northern Arapaho Tribe announced last year before the legislature introduced the online-only bill that it would open retail sportsbooks at its brick-and-mortar gaming facilities.

The Wyoming House initially rejected the bill 32-28 on March 9. But the bill was brought up for reconsideration a day later and the House approved the bill 32-28 in on the second vote.

Sports betting advocates pitched regulated wagering as a means to recoup money lost to illegal bookmakers and unregulated offshore sites. Instead of a gaming expansion, supporters argued before one of the nation’s most politically conservative legislatures, regulated sports betting was also a way to protect Wyoming residents that were already gambling.

Key Wyoming Sports Betting Details

The Wyoming Gaming Commission would have to allocate five or more online licenses to “qualified” applicants. Lawmakers added several additional licensure qualification and compliance clauses during Senate deliberations.

The bill also designates licensure for sportsbooks operating in at least three other jurisdictions. That could give market access to leading national operators such as BetMGM, BetRivers, DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet and William Hill.

License holders would pay a $100,000 initial licensing fee with a $50,000 renewal every five years. Sportsbooks would pay 10 percent tax on gross gaming revenues, which is around the national median average.

Wyoming’s sports betting law allows bets on in-state and out-of-state college sports. The eligible betting age would be 18, compared to 21 in most other states.

The legislation’s tax rates and event wagering eligibility would create one of the most operator-friendly betting markets, but Wyoming’s demographics could curtail participation. The nation’s least populated state, Wyoming officials project legal wagering will generate between $2.25 and $4.7 million in annual tax revenues at market maturity.

Extrapolating off the 10 percent tax rate, that would mean roughly $22.5 million and $47 in total possible revenues for Wyoming sportsbooks, which could be split between five or more operators.

Next Steps

A joint conference committee of senators and representatives will likely be assigned to rectify relatively minor regulator discrepancies between the bill passed by each chamber. Both the House and Senate will need to pass identical versions of the conference committee bill, which should be largely perfunctory at this point in the legislative process.

If passed out of both chambers, the bill goes to Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk. Gordon will have three days to either sign the bill into law or return it to the legislature with his veto or it will pass without his signature.

The Republican governor has not publicly taken a firm position on the wagering bill championed by fellow GOP policymakers. The House's narrow vote means the two-thirds supermajority needed for a veto override is unlikely.

There’s little indication a veto is imminent. Lawmakers typically don’t bother advancing legislation they believe will be vetoed by a governor of their own party.

If legalized, the gaming commission would still need to promulgate further rules and license applicants, a process that has taken between three and 18 months in other states. Wyoming’s first online sportsbooks could launch ahead of the 2021 football season in a best-case scenario, but they may not go live until 2022.

Key work remains, but Monday’s vote means the key legislative authorization behind Wyoming sports betting could come as early as next month.

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