An Overview Of Gambling Laws In The State Of Wyoming
This has traditionally not been the most gambling friendly of States, and has only recently allowed casino gaming after being over-ruled by Federal judges concerning their refusal to negotiate compacts with tribes in their State. There are restrictions on most forms of gambling, even those which are legal, and concessions appear hard to get through the legislature. With limited options for betting on horse racing and only charity or the very recent lottery as alternatives, the choices in Wyoming are limited. This article takes a detailed look at the gambling laws in the State of Wyoming.
First of all below you will find a fast-paced history of gambling in Wyoming, leading up to the present day. After this the different types of games are listed, along with the current legal status of each one. Next you will find some details of the statutes, including the key wording, and a timeline of legal events. At the end of this page there is a summary of the current situation and a look towards the future.
Other than a little pari-mutuel betting on horse races, and some charity bingo or ‘casino nights’ type events – the entire history of gambling legislation in Wyoming took place in the 21st century.
There were some legal issues which dated back to the 1990’s. When the Indian Gaming Regulation Act was passed at a Federal Level in 1988, many tribes approached different State governments looking to negotiate deals (known as ‘compacts’) to build and run casinos on their land.
Wyoming repeatedly refused to come to the negotiating table – and one of the tribes (the Northern Arapaho Tribe) decided to fight in the courts. There was more than 10 years of legal wrangling, and eventually the tribe won. Their case was at Federal level under the new Indian Gaming rules, and gave them the right to offer the top-tier class 3 casino games in 2005.
This finally brought the government to the negotiation table, and compacts were signed with both the Northern Arapaho tribe and the Eastern Shoshone Tribe in 2006). The casinos operated by these tribes represent the only legal casinos and only live poker room in the entire State.
Poker fans have one other option in Wyoming – home games. You can play in a social poker game as long as the participants have a bona-fide (presumably social) relationship, and nobody is raking the pot or making a profit from hosting the game. This is a standard enough definition for these games, and does not mention the stakes played in this case.
Betting on horse racing has been expanded recently to include simulcast and betting-terminals for past races (the horse’s names are removed). This industry went into terminal decline, stopping altogether in 2010. In 2014, live racing will return, though it is yet to be seen whether the expanded betting options will be enough for this to continue.
2014 also saw the start of the lottery in Wyoming, after 20 years of attempts to get this started. Even now there are restrictions compared to other States. There are no lottery terminals, scratch-cards or other ‘instant gratification’ games. To compensate for the lack of gratification, you can take part in Inter-State draws including the Mega-millions.
Last but not least, charity gambling has been allowed under strict license in Wyoming for many years. You can enjoy bingo, pull-tabs, raffles and ‘casino nights’ type entertainment for limited prizes. Poker is not one of the games you can play under the charity rules in this State.
Casino Games: Yes, there are two tribal casinos offering class 3 casino games and poker. There are no casinos outside of tribal lands in Wyoming.
Online Casinos: No, while not explicitly banned, the current statutes are assumed by the authorities to prohibit online gambling.
Live Poker: Yes, you can enjoy poker games in one of the tribal casinos. Home poker games are permitted, though you must be able to prove a ‘bona-fide’ relationship with your fellow players and nobody is allowed to take a rake or charge a fee to host the game.
Online Poker: No, there is no current suggestion that this State will regulate online poker games.
Sports Betting: Yes, you can bet on horse races in pari-mutuel (pooled) format. For a while there were no racing events to bet on in this State, though one racetrack will reopen this year and offer 16 days of racing. You can also bet on past races with the names of the horses hidden using electronic terminals.
Lottery Betting: Yes, rather than their own draw, Wyoming participates in multi-State games which offer the bigger prizes including PowerBall and Mega Millions. The wording of the lottery law makes ‘instant gratification’ games like scratch-cards, out of scope.
Bingo Games: Yes, these are available under charity gambling law in Wyoming, along with raffles.
Pro-gambling parties have had to fight for every tiny concession in this State, and even when they succeeded it was with a long list of terms and conditions attached. The original 1890 laws were created just as prohibition was approaching, in an era when there was a strong desire to control the excesses of the early settlers. The key component of the statutes is the wagering, and the chance factor does include a ‘whole or part’ sentence which spoils the party for fans of the skill game argument for poker.
Here is the key wording:
There are plenty more definitions, including details of gambling devices, gambling premises, profiting from the games and so on. The core message is clear, if there is any element of risk at all, and no exceptions listed on the books – then you are breaking the law.
Here is a timeline of legal events for Wyoming:
1967: Pari-mutuel racing commission established to oversee both racing and betting on this. After years of decline there were no races by 2010. With the help of simulcast racing and terminals allowing betting on historic races, racing was due to start again in 2014.
1989: Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed, though Wyoming refused to enter into negotiations. This led to more than 10 years of legal battles.
2005: Federal court of appeals grants the Arapaho tribe the right to run a full range of casino games on their land.
2006: Compacts at last negotiated with the two Wyoming based tribes. They now run casinos on their ‘Wind River’ reservation.
2013: Lottery made legal, with the first games in early 2014, the statute stipulated that no ‘start-up dollars’ were to be made available for this.
The last few years have been busy for the gambling committees in the Wyoming legislature. Changes to the lottery laws and additions to racing betting laws have come hot on the heels of the tribal compact negotiations. While this looks like progress, there still appears to be some reluctance within these Statutes to allow too much freedom to gamble in Wyoming.
I can’t see this State being an early adopter of regulated online poker or gambling. In fact, if the lottery is anything to go by, they might wait 20 years or so after seeing it working in other States and then make this legal with massive restrictions. With the rate of change picking up recently, you just never know.
History Of Pari-Mutuel Racing
Tribal Casinos Background