Wyoming Sports Betting Bill Could Be Region’s Next Statewide Mobile Hope

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Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images. Pictured: Wyoming State House.

Wyoming lawmakers filed a statewide mobile wagering bill last week that supporters hope will create the region’s newest online betting market.

The legislation, introduced jointly by six House co-sponsors and two more in the Senate, would allow eligible bettors physically in Wyoming to place a bet anywhere within state lines. The bill was assigned to the powerful House Appropriations Committee on Monday, setting up an early chance for quick advancement to the full House floor.

Wyoming’s Northern Arapaho tribe are planning sportsbooks for its three casinos but are limited to in-person bets.

The nation’s least populated and second-least densely populated state would be the second statewide mobile market in the Mountain West after Colorado. North Dakota lawmakers are advancing a statewide mobile betting question for the 2022 ballot, meaning legal wagering wouldn’t begin until 2023 even if approved by voters. North Dakota tribes are also working on their own retail sportsbooks at tribal casinos.

Montana and South Dakota are both working to take legal bets, but neither will likely allow statewide mobile betting in the near future. Nebraska voters approved legal casino gaming in 2020 but it remains to be seen if that extends to legal sports betting. Wyoming’s other neighbors, Idaho and Utah, are unlikely to legalize sports betting anytime soon (if ever).

Wyoming Sports Betting Bill Details

Wyoming would be one of the first online-only sports betting markets if the bill passes. The Wyoming Gaming Commission would regulate wagering and would be required to issue at least five licenses if enough eligible applicants apply.

The bill also requires the commission to issue permits to eligible applicants operating in at least five other jurisdictions. That would mean larger sportsbooks such as DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, PointsBet and William Hill could automatically be allowed to operate, assuming they meet all other regulatory and licensing requirements.

Applicants would pay a $100,000 initial fee with a $50,000 renewal every five years and be taxed at 10% of gross gaming revenue. All of these are around industry averages, but Wyoming’s sparse population (and limited customer base) may deter would-be applicants.

Officials didn’t estimate legal wagering’s revenue generation potential, but the gaming commission projected Wyoming residents wager more than $450 million illegally each year. Assuming that projection is accurate, and Wyoming captures all the illegal market (a difficult process that would likely take years), operators could reasonably generate between $25 and $35 million in gross gaming revenue, funding $2.5 million to $3.5 million in annual taxes in a best-case scenario.

There are no prohibitions on eSports or college sports betting, meaning bettors could wager on out-of-state and instate programs like the University of Wyoming football and men’s basketball teams. The gaming commission would be required to further promulgate rules on eligible sports, leagues and events.

The legal wagering age is 18 in the bill. Most states are 21.

Next Steps

Wyoming’s bill was only introduced last week but could have a relatively quick start to legalization.

The House Appropriations Committee, which directs much of the legislature’s spending bills, was set to hear the bill as early as Monday. Appropriations Committee member Tom Walters is the lead sponsor, meaning it already has an advocate in the committee.

Walters and the five House co-sponsors are all Republicans, including Revenue Committee Chair Steve Harshman, another influential sports betting supporter in the GOP-controlled legislature. Democratic Sen. Mike Gierau and Republican Sen. Jeff Wasserburger are also co-sponsors, giving the bill bipartisan and bicameral support – even though only two of Wyoming’s 30 Senators are Democrats.

The Senate’s overwhelming conservative makeup (plus the 51 Republicans in the 60-person House) means GOP support is essential for passage. Conservative, anti-gambling lawmakers helped tank a similar 2020 sports betting bill.

Assuming the Appropriations Committee advances the bill it would still be subject to further committee votes and then have to pass through the full House floor. The House bill would then have to go through the same process in the Senate before going to Republican Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk for final passage.

Wyoming sports betting legislation has a long way from the Appropriations Committee to the governor’s signature, a legislative journey made more difficult by the state’s conservative politics. However, there appears early momentum for what could be another legal market in the slow expansion of regulated sports betting.

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