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Wyoming Gambling: State Legislation, Live Casinos and Top Sites
Wyoming Gambling Law Overview
Casino Gambling: Legaltribal only
Poker: Legalunder certain circumstances
Horse Racing Betting: Legal
Dog Racing Betting: Not Legal
Daily Fantasy Sports: Not Specified
Charitable Gaming: Legal
Social Gambling: Legal
Online Gambling: Not Specified
Wyoming has a reputation for being a state filled with active outdoorsmen who love their guns and the Republican Party. Cowboy boots and hats are always in fashion, which makes sense when you consider that the official nickname is the “Cowboy State.” These modern-day frontiersmen also like to gamble on occasion, even if the Wyoming gambling laws haven’t always been entirely conducive to the hobby.
Fortunately for gamblers, these laws have become less restrictive since the beginning of the new millennium. Lottery tickets are now available throughout the state, and both locals and tourists can also choose from horse racing and tribal casinos.
This page provides an overview of the Wyoming gambling laws. Whether you’re a Laramie resident willing to risk a few bucks or a card-counting tourist passing through the state, this should serve as a handy guide to what’s legal and what should be avoided.
While we’ve gone to great pains to make this article as complete as possible, keep in mind that we’re just humble gambling enthusiasts with a passing interest in the law. We might have missed some minor detail along the way, and it’s very possible that new legislation has been enacted since this document was published to the Internet.
If you want to be certain that you’re following the letter of the law, there’s no substitute for a licensed attorney. These learned men and women make it their business to know all the latest developments in the world of jurisprudence, and they’ll be happy to share their knowledge with you for an outrageous hourly fee. Considering the subject matter, we suggest finding someone who specializes in gaming law.
If you don’t think of Wyoming as a traditional gambling state, that’s because you probably don’t think of Wyoming much at all. We think the history of legal gambling in the state is fascinating in part because so few of us are familiar with this least-populous of all US states. We were surprised to find out that Wyoming is home to three tribal casinos, a state lottery system, and some of the most liberal poker rules in the country.
We were equally-surprised to find out that activists in Wyoming are working hard to further liberalize the state code, pushing a bill allowing for unregulated DFS wagers even as we researched the topic to write about it. In order to put everything we’re going to tell you in context, let’s start with some key gambling stats and information about the state. You’ll notice that there’s no report of annual gambling revenue or taxes – that’s a symptom of the surprising fact that Wyoming has yet to create a regulatory body, which is our usual source for that kind of information.
Wyoming Gambling Stats & Key Info
Age Requirements: 18
Approximate Annual Gambling Revenue: n/a
Approximate Annual Gambling Taxes: n/a
Number of Commercial Casinos: 0
Number of Racinos: 0
Number of Tribal Casinos: 3
Casino Regulatory Body: None
Lottery National Rankings: 46th
Even though Wyoming has very few legal forms of gambling, the state’s gaming law is just as complex as states with many legal and regulated markets. That’s because of a few strange wrinkles in the law, and a few pieces of legislation that require further explanation. Remember that the information below represents an informed opinion about Wyoming gambling law. If you need actual legal advice regarding the state’s gaming laws, we recommend a lawyer familiar with gambling law in Wyoming.
The Legal Status of Gambling in Wyoming
According to the laws of Wyoming, the act of gambling is defined as “risking any property for gain contingent in whole or in part upon lot, chance, the operation of a gambling device or the happening or outcome of an event, including a sporting event, over which the person taking a risk has no control.” Exception to this definition include charitable games, business transactions, and certain contests of skill, speed, strength, or endurance.
If a person is found guilty of the misdemeanor crime of gambling, they face up to six months in jail and/or a fine no greater than $750. If a person engages in professional gambling by enticing others to gamble with the intent of making a profit, the crime is considered a felony and carries a penalty of up to three years in prison and/or a fine no greater than $3,000.
Gambling was outlawed in Wyoming in 1901, when the McGill Act sought to protect citizens from the supposedly evil nature of games of chance. This prohibition lasted for decades, but eventually the allure of additional revenue and outcry from local residents forced a certain relaxation on these hardline policies.
As of this writing, the following forms of wagering are legal in the state of Wyoming:
Tribal casinos (includes poker and casino gaming)
Historic horse racing (video terminals)
Charitable games (bingo and raffles)
Commercial casinos are still prohibited, but Native American tribes can own and operate casinos on their land thanks to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Alcohol is not served at these facilities, so the legal age of gambling is only 18.
For charitable gaming to be legal, a couple of requirements must be met. First, the nonprofit organization holding an event must have been around for at least three years. Second, a minimum of 65% of the gross sales from the organization must be redeemed as winnings on a monthly basis.
Pari-mutuel wagering was made legal throughout the state in 2011, and its operation is overseen by the Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission. One major racetrack sits on the border with Utah, and a large percentage of customers come from this Mormon state with no form of legal gambling. A few off-track betting facilities are also available, allowing customers to wager on both horse and dog racing.
In addition to live racing, the state added another option for horse racing enthusiasts in 2013. Known as “historic horse racing,” these machines allow the player to predict the winner from a previously-run horse race, although only a few details are provided prior to the start of the event. These machines are located at bars and other locations throughout the state, and their design is similar to that of a slot machine.
In 2013, Wyoming became the 44th state to approve the lottery. At the same time, state legislators also passed a law banning video lottery games and scratch-off tickets. The reason for the bans, according to lawmakers, was due to the instant gratification factor and the danger that players would keep reaching into their wallets in an effort to produce a winner. With a lottery ticket, however, players have to wait to see the results.
In Wyoming, lottery wins up to $599 can be claimed at an official retailer, while anything larger requires a trip to the main office in Cheyenne (you can also send a claim form via the mail). The game is open to anyone over the age of 18, and you don’t have to be a resident of the state to play.
There are now more than 400 retailers offering lottery tickets across the state, and play is also available online. The current option include multi-state games such as Mega Millions and Powerball, but the state expects to have their own personalized lottery games in the future.
Each year, the first $6 million in lottery profits go into the state treasury where it filters down to various towns, cities, and counties throughout the region. Any additional profits are deposited into the state fund for education.
Is Online Gambling Legal in Wyoming?
There are no Wyoming gambling laws that deal specifically with Internet gaming, but that doesn’t mean you should run into the local police department and start bragging about your latest win at the virtual slot machines. It could be argued that the state’s definition of gambling also extends to Internet casinos, especially since they’re games of chance that offer a prize in return for a cash wager.
For practical purposes, however, this is only likely to impact someone who’s trying to operate an online casino within the state. Private citizens should still be able to find virtual casinos that are willing to accept their business, although care should always be taken to make sure that these sites are honest and can be depended on to issue payouts in a timely fashion.
As confusing as Wyoming law is, one thing remains clear – online gambling is not explicitly illegal. Provided you’re placing bets with a service that operates from offshore, you can place bets, make deposits, get withdrawals, and do all the other things traditional for online gamblers without fear of recrimination from the state.
Of course, since this is Wyoming, other caveats exist – mainly, you’re not allowed to place bets at an online daily fantasy sports betting site. Don’t forget that the implied legal status of online gambling is up for debate pretty much at all times while the state legislators meet. Wyoming has a way of pulling the rug out from under gamblers overnight, making certain bets illegal that had been legal for years, while creating new regulated markets at the same time.
Wyoming allows tribal groups to open Class III gaming facilities for the first time.
The state’s last horse racing facility closes due to lack of interest.
Wyoming becomes the 46th US state with lottery games.
Horse racing and pari-mutuel betting re-appear at two different tracks.
Further Reading on Wyoming Gambling Law
When it comes to learning about a new subject, some folks are more deliberate than others. For example, we have a co-worker who never reads the instructions to anything, preferring to dive right and learn on the fly. We’re just the opposite, and it’s not unusual to find me spending days or even weeks researching a subject before getting actively involved.
If you fit the former example, then just go ahead and jump right into your new hobby as a Wyoming gambling enthusiast. Those who fall into the latter category, however, will need some additional resources to draw from. To accommodate these studious individuals, we’ve included a trio of links to get them started. If this selection doesn’t satisfy your craving for knowledge, you may be able to turn up some more selections across the vastness of the World Wide Web.
Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission
In addition to protecting the horses and jockeys, this self-sustaining organization makes certain that fair conditions are always maintained for the betting public. If you’re interested in horse racing within the state of Wyoming, this resource should prove invaluable. Details are provided for new legislation, racing facilities, off-track betting, race dates, and much more. If you want to complain about the conditions at a track, or the possibility of unethical wagering practices, there’s even a form that can be filled out anonymously.
FindLaw is a website that allows you to learn about the law, but it also provides you with standard legal forms and contact information for attorneys across the 50 states. As part of their effort to provide the public with a wealth of legal information, they include sections on gaming statutes in the various American states. Wyoming is included, and this succinct document addresses everything from casino betting to bingo.
Residents of Wyoming couldn’t legally enjoy the lottery until 2013, but they’ve been making up for the wait ever since. This site is the official online home of the game, and you can read details on the various offerings or even sign up to become a lottery retailer. Prize claim forms are available, as well as the winning number from all previous drawings. One page offers information on how to start a lottery pool, and a handy reference page lists all current lottery retailers within the state.
How do I know if a private game of poker is legal in Wyoming?
Lots of people who live in Wyoming know that the state honors their right to host a social game of chance in the privacy of their home. Not many people know that you’re really only allowed to play poker – you can’t set up a roulette wheel or unveil a slot machine and claim that it’s social gambling. The state’s existing allowance for private poker games honors poker games only, and even then only in specific circumstances. The game must be between people with:
“… a bona fide social relationship”
The law is very clear that no one can participate, host, or attend the games if they are involved in professional gambling.
What is “Calcutta wagering,” and why is it legal in Wyoming?
We hear from a lot of people who’ve decided to examine Wyoming gaming law for themselves, and to a man, they always ask about Calcutta wagering. That’s because right at the outset of the state’s gaming statutes, lawmakers have gone out of their way to mention that something called “Calcutta wagering” is explicitly legal. A Calcutta wager is a type of sports wager, usually in the form of an auction. You don’t hear much about Calcutta auctions – it’s a form of sports betting that went out of fashion when TV and radio broadcasting meant people could enjoy sports from their homes. The reason this activity is legal in Wyoming is tradition – these bets have traditionally been outside the purview of lawmakers, and in Wyoming, they remain so.
Does Wyoming’s law against gaming machines mean online gambling is illegal?
We had to double-check the statute to answer this question. According to Wyoming law, the phrase “Gambling device” refers to:
“… any device, machine, paraphernalia or equipment except an antique gambling device that is used or usable in the playing phases of any professional gambling activity, whether that activity consists of gambling between persons or gambling by a person involving the playing of a machine.”
As far as we can tell, a loose interpretation of this law might include such gadgets as cell phones, tablets, and computers used to place online bets. But it’s important to remember that this has never happened in the history of the state, and it seems an unlikely tactic for the state to use to charge someone with simple gambling.
What are the penalties for illegal gambling in the state of Wyoming?
We found the following in Section 6-7-102 of Wyoming law – “A person who engages in gambling commits a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than six months, a fine of not more than $750, or both.” The fine and punishment is more serious for a person found guilty of engaging in “professional gambling,” which carries a mandatory felony charge, a term of imprisonment of not more than three years, a fine of $3,000, or both.
Wyoming gambling law has become more bettor friendly in the last decade, and there’s always the possibility that it continues to do so. While it’s not likely to overtake Nevada as the gaming capitol of America anytime soon, any sort of progress is welcome by those who remember the days when the state was largely bereft of wagering options.
The biggest obstacle, perhaps, is the state’s conservative nature, as Republican politicians are prone to lobby against gambling and its implied moral evil. While this hasn’t stopped the hobby from experiencing significant growth in recent years, it could pose a long-term detriment to seeing licensed online gaming and commercial casinos.