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Wyoming Embraces Betting On Sports

A man wearing a baseball cap on backwards with the Draft Kings logo
Drew Amato
Flickr via CC BY-ND 2.0

Wyoming has entered the world of sports betting. Earlier this month the Wyoming Gaming Commission kicked off online betting in the state, while the Wind River Casino in Riverton became the state's only facility where people can bet in person due to its tribal affiliation.

To be clear, many in the state have been illegally betting on sporting events forever. Perhaps you had a friend suddenly go extraordinarily pale when the Wyoming Cowboys passed on a late field goal or seemed to be particularly interested in how many points the Broncos were scoring in a blowout. They were probably gamblers. Casper State Rep. Tom Walters said he realized one day that an unregulated sports gaming industry was not a good idea.

"The activity was taking place in the state quite frequently and the folks that were participating in it were, for the most part, using offshore illegal markets to place their wagers. And if they won big there was no guarantee they would get their payout," said Walters.

In 2018, the federal government said states could allow legalized local sports betting and Walters was interested. He saw regulated sports betting could be a revenue source for the state while also offering some consumer protections.

Earlier this year, the legislature passed a law allowing sports betting to occur with state oversight.

In the past, Wyoming took a while to fully embrace gambling revenue. For example, the state went years before it finally approved a lottery, and, in the 90's, fought a losing battle with Wind River Tribes who wanted to open casinos. But times change. Jill Dorson covers sports betting for Sportshandle.

"And I think it's been made clear through multiple studies that people are sports betting, so really why shouldn't the state get a cut of that?"

Dorson said Wyoming modeled its legislation after laws in Colorado and Tennessee and will offer an open and competitive market for those who want to bet on sports.

Wyoming requires a minimum of five mobile platforms available. In other words you'll want to download the sportsbook apps. Currently, BETMGMand DraftKings Sportsbookare servicing the state with four more expected to be added soon. Dorson noted that there is no cap on the number of operators who can offer online sports betting in the state.

"But even with five you would have myriad different operators offering different kinds of wagers and they would all specialize in something different," said Dorson.

Johnny Avello oversees the sports book for DraftKings. He said they offer a wide range of betting opportunities.

"For every NFL game we probably have 200 or 300 options that you could wager. Everything from alternative point spreads or different proposition bets that involve the teams or involve the players," said Avello.

For instance, he said some people might want to bet on how former Wyoming star Josh Allen will play for Buffalo this weekend.

Obviously you can bet on a wide range of other sports as well. David Carpenter oversees sports wagering for the Wyoming Gaming Commission and he said you can bet on about 60 different sports.

"That includes Australian rules football, American football, soccer, cricket, rugby, table tennis, regular tennis, diving, swimming, the whole nine yards," said Carpenter. "There's no rock or stone that I left unturned, I think."

Carpenter added that Wyoming may be the only state that lets you bet on professional rodeo. He said Wyoming's small population will limit the amount of money that gets bet, but he predicts that the state will take in three to five million dollars in tax revenue each year.

Some might want to play, but might find all of this overwhelming. Johnny Avello of DraftKings suggests sticking to the basics before you branch out.

"The point spread on a game—that's the differential that kind of evens the teams up, the total points scored in a game. You can bet it will go over that amount or under that amount," said Avello. "Or a money line, which is no points, just pick the team who you think is going to win the game," he added.

Both DraftKings and BetMGM do offer some free opportunities to get your feet wet too.

One concern of legislators was that people could get addicted and that is an issue that many other states have addressed by shifting some of the profits into mental health and addiction prevention programs. Wyoming's law shifts the first $300,000 it earns over to the Department of Health to be distributed to local mental health facilities to address gambling addictions.

Bob Beck retired from Wyoming Public Media after serving as News Director of Wyoming Public Radio for 34 years. During his time as News Director WPR has won over 100 national, regional and state news awards.
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