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Gambling rebounding after COVID slowdowns

By Clair McFarland

The Ranger 

Via- Wyoming News Exchange

RIVERTON — After suffering for 10 weeks due to COVID-19, the state’s newly legalized gambling outlets are recovering – at a rate that pleases gaming proponents.

“Our experiences have been very positive this summer,” reported Wyoming Gaming Commission executive director Charles Moore, who presented his panel’s research results to the Wyoming Legislative Travel Committee on Sept. 25.

The committee is co-chaired by State Rep. David Miller, R-Riverton.

Moore displayed an interactive map showing three Pace-O-Matic brand skill games in Fremont County, in Lander, Riverton, and Pavillion; and one Bankshot skill game located in Riverton.

Both brands were prolific throughout the rest of the state – but only Fremont County also has tribal gaming sites – which the commission included in the map merely for “informational purposes,” because tribal casinos are not under the state’s control.

The map showed at least 11 broodmare – or race horse breeding – locations in the county, and more in nearly every other county in Wyoming.

There are currently no historic horse racing off-track betting locations or live racing facilities in the county, but Fremont County Commissioner Clarence Thomas has been a strong proponent of bringing horse racing to the Fremont County Fair.

Moore did note that two historic horse racing organizations permitted in Wyoming were joined Sept. 24 by another permitted group – 307 Horse Racing, which will operate in Gillette.

State Sen. Anselmi-Dalton, D-Rock Springs, asked who owned the racing outfits.

“Are these all Vegas entities or are they owned by Wyoming people?” she asked of Moore.

He said they were varying partnerships.

“I want to know if we’re just making money for Vegas,” said Anselmi-Dalton. “I’ve asked for that information and I’d like to have that please.”

Moore said he’d get her a report.

He noted that Wyoming Horse Racing, in Rock Springs, is a combination between a Wyoming operator and a Chicago-based one, and Wyoming Downs, of Evanston, is largely Las Vegas-based.

Gaming commission accountant Stephen Dobby said systems categorized as “skill games” – like those operating locally – have raised about $1.3 million in tax revenue statewide.

“This first million goes to the gaming commission account, and after that we keep track of the revenue at each location” to fund county, city, and state government according to intake in varying locations.

The gaming commission’s account is kept at $1 million balance to keep it in the black while “continually appropriating out of that” to local governments, Moore said.

“Almost $300,000 at this point has been raised for revenue for the counties, the cities; a portion goes into the education fund, and the last little part of that goes back into the gaming commission,” said Dobby.

The accountant said skill games bring in, on average, about $72,000 in tax revenue a week, statewide.

Miller asked Moore when the grandfather-in period for skill based games is set to expire.

Moore said that date is July 1, 2021.

However, if the Legislature acts to continue state-legal gaming before that date, the industry could continue and possibly grow.

Legislative continuation of gaming is, according to prior talks and enrolled act language, dependent on the reports produced in the state gaming commission.

Historic horse racing statewide drew $353 million in total income for 2020, to date.

Of that, $883,010 goes to the state; another $883,010 goes into the legislative stabilization reserve account – and another portion goes to cities and counties depending on where the betting is occurring.

Horse handlers or breeders split nearly $1.5 million in breeders’ awards.

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