Lawmakers in Wyoming are beginning to see the light. A bill that would allow online sports gambling in the state met a significant amount of resistance in the House earlier this month before finally being approved on its third reading. The bill has now been able to find enough support in both the House and Senate and will continue to move forward, with the signature of Governor Mark Gordon needed to allow Wyoming to add its name to the ever-growing list of legal sports gambling states in the U.S.
Wyoming Had Uphill Battle with Online Gambling
Earlier this month, the Wyoming House of Representatives took a shot at Senate Bill 133 (SB 133), but lawmakers in the chamber had difficulty understanding the merits of legalizing sports gambling. It took three tries before the bill was approved, and it only then narrowly escaped defeat. The House approved SB 133 by a close, 32-28 margin, sending it back to the Senate.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill last week before it was put to the vote in front of the full chamber. It successfully passed its second and third reading, finding substantial support when it was approved by a 24-5 vote yesterday. The House will now have the opportunity to sign off on the final results before the bill makes its way to Governor Gordon.
A Step in the Right Direction
It’s already well-known that sports gambling is taking place everywhere and has been for decades, regardless of its legal status. Most states, with the possible exception of Texas, have realized that legalizing the activity provides more benefits than drawbacks, allowing them to capture the revenue that is being spent elsewhere while being able to address any potential gambling addiction issues. Wyoming is now part of that group, with Senator Jeff Wasserburger telling fellow lawmakers last week, “(The bill) tries to stop the black market that is taking place now, put consumer protections into the bill, and then allow people in Wyoming … to place bets. Then it has a 10% tax on that bet.”
The Wyoming Gaming Commission (WGC) will be put in charge of regulating sports gambling in the state and will establish the rules operators will have to follow. It will also implement certain fees and penalties, although SB 133 lays out a permit application fee of $100,000, with $50,000 needed at the five-year mark for a renewal. According to the bill, the WGC will need to have its draft rules in place by this September. With a little foresight, the WGC might be able to work quicker, allowing Wyoming to take full advantage of the popularity of sports gambling in the NFL.
Much-needed Funds for Wyoming’s Coffers
As is the case with the majority of U.S. states, Wyoming could use some additional revenue due to COVID-19, and a legalized online sports gambling market can help. Online sportsbooks will be assessed a 10% tax on their revenue, paid each month to the state. With some predictions putting the state’s sports gambling market at around $449 million, this, along with the permit fees, could provide a decent revenue stream. It will also directly help target any potential gambling addictions, as a portion of the money is earmarked for the Wyoming Department of Health “to be distributed to the counties for the purpose of funding county health programs to prevent and treat problematic gambling behavior.”
Where it has been legalized, online sports gambling has proven to be a stronger attraction than land-based sports gambling, with the possible exception of Washington, D.C. However, Wyoming is still going to miss out on one potential revenue stream, as the legislation prohibits wagers on games “where the majority of contestants or athletes in the sporting event are under the age of eighteen (18) years.” This will include all college sports, which have repeatedly been shown to be a huge draw for sports gamblers.